Fuel poverty

A household is in fuel poverty if the household’s fuel costs (necessary to meet the requisite temperature and amount of hours as well as other reasonable fuel needs) are more than 10% of the household’s adjusted net income, and after deducting these fuel costs, benefits received for a care need or disability, childcare costs, the household’s remaining income is not enough to maintain an acceptable standard of living.

The required temperature and amount of hours is defined as:

For households requiring an enhanced heating regime, this would be 23°C in the living room and 20°C in other rooms. For other households, this is 21°C in the living room and 18°C in other rooms. For a household for which enhanced heating hours is appropriate, heating the home to the requisite temperatures for 16 hours a day, every day. For any other household, heating the home to the requisite temperatures for 9 hours a day on a weekday and 16 hours a day at the weekend.

Net income means the income of all adults in the household after deduction of income tax and national insurance contributions.

Available support

These organisations provide free, impartial energy efficiency advice, information and support, including with fuel debt concerns:

Main Causes

The main causes are:

  • Poor energy efficiency of housing - through low levels of insulation or old or inefficient heating systems
  • Low income – which is often linked to absolute poverty
  • High fuel costs – including use of expensive fuel sources or inappropriate tariffs
  • Household behaviours – simple lifestyle changes regarding energy usage can help reduce fuel costs

Impact of Fuel Poverty

The consequences of fuel poverty are discomfort, ill health, debt and social exclusion. Living in a cold, damp environment can also exacerbate health problems such as asthma and heart conditions.

Often people struggling to pay their bills ration their use of energy, perhaps just heating one room or making the choice between cooking a hot meal and turning on a heater. Using appliances such as washing machines and heating water for baths or showers can be a worry too.