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Fuel Poverty Bill

gasCAMPAIGN BACKGROUND

Fuel poverty is defined as having to spend at least 10% of your income to maintain a reasonable level of warmth in your home. Fuel poverty blights the lives of millions of our poorest and most vulnerable households. Every year over 20,000 more people die in the winter months than in the summer months, largely due to cold-related illnesses. Many more become ill as a result of living in cold, damp homes. Every winter one in three older people have to live in one room to keep warm and one in ten have to cut back on essentials such as food or clothes. The main reason is cold homes – homes so poorly insulated that they “leak heat”. It’s a problem that affects older people, disabled people and many families with young children.

ACE is part of the Fuel Poverty Coalition, a wide range of organisations concerned with the elderly, poverty and the environment. Members of the Coalition include Age Concern England, Centre for Sustainable Energy, Child Poverty Action Group, Consumer Focus, Disability Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Help the Aged, National Right to Fuel Campaign and UNISON.

David Heath, the Liberal Democrat MP for Somerton & Frome adopted the Fuel Poverty Bill in the recent Private Members’ Ballot. The Bill requires the homes of the fuel poor to be brought up to the minimum energy efficiency standards enjoyed by new homes. It also requires energy suppliers to offer social (i.e. reduced rate) tariffs to vulnerable householders in the short term. This Bill will help to lower energy bills and save carbon emissions.

Previous campaigning by ACE led to the ground-breaking Warm Homes & Energy Conservation Act in 2000 – which placed a duty on the Government to eradicate all fuel poverty in England by 2016 and among vulnerable groups by 2010. But a recent High Court judgment ruled that this duty was in effect discretionary, not absolute. This was a bitter blow – not least to the 4.5 million older people who (according to a recent Help the Aged survey) are planning to live in one room this winter to save on fuel bills.

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