Affordable warmth and fuel poverty

Affordable warmth is the ability to afford to heat your home to an adequate level for comfort and health. If you can afford adequate warmth and all other energy services in the home (eg lighting, refrigeration), then you are not in fuel poverty. If you cannot, you are in fuel poverty.

In particular, the government is proposing that households will be classed as fuel poor if they are on a low income (below the poverty line after housing costs and energy needs are taking into account) and living in a home with an energy performance certificate (EPC) of band D or below (ie those in bands G, F, E or D).

Fuel poverty continues to rise and affects over 15% of households in England. For some people in winter this can mean a stark choice of ‘heating or eating’. Difficulty in achieving affordable warmth can stem from various causes including:

  • poorly insulated homes
  • low household income
  • illness, disability and other vulnerabilities
  • high energy prices and fear of high bills
  • lack of knowledge on how to use the heating system efficiently
  • under-occupancy: a lot of space to be heated on a low income.

The best long-term solution for fuel poverty is to improve the energy efficiency of the home to bring the cost of heating down. For general information on energy saving measures see here.

There is additional help for those struggling to pay their bills: Oxford City Council run the Local Energy Advice Programme (LEAP) which provides “FREE energy home visit, FREE small energy repairs such as draught proofing and LED lights, and FREE phone support with your finances”, for homeowners or tenants who are on benefits or are vulnerable. For more details visit their website here. LEAP is run by the “Better Housing, Better Health” service (which covers Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire).  You can get advice by phoning 0800 107 0044.

For those living in privately rented accommodation, from April 2018 landlords have a legal duty to ensure properties they rent out meet a certain level of energy efficiency. Currently it must be at least band E on the EPC. More information on the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants can be found on Oxford City Council’s website here.