Million more disabled people sucked into fuel poverty


More than a million disabled people have fallen into fuel poverty in four years, figures from the government’s own Fuel Poverty Advisory Group (FPAG) suggest.
The FPAG’s seventh annual report estimates that more than four million households were in fuel poverty in September 2008 compared with 1.2 million in 2004.
About four-fifths of households in fuel poverty are “vulnerable”, and nearly half of these households include a disabled person or someone with a limiting long-term illness.
The FPAG called for urgent government action to tackle increasing levels of fuel poverty, which it said were set to rise further due to essential investment in climate change prevention, rising unemployment and threatened fuel price rises.
The report said that average annual domestic bills for gas and electricity increased from £572 to £1,287 (an increase of 125 per cent) between January 2003 and September 2008.
The FPAG also called for the government to set out how it would meet its target of eradicating fuel poverty by 2016.
The group said it welcomed new government measures on energy efficiency and cold weather payments this year, but said existing measures were “inadequate” to deal with the scale of the problem.
Derek Lickorish, chairman of the FPAG, said: “Unless fuel poverty is tackled head on, many hundreds of thousands more vulnerable pensioners, families and disabled people will struggle to afford their energy bills.”
The FPAG called for substantial extra help to protect low income households from fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency levels.
National Energy Action, the fuel poverty charity, said it would continue to campaign for an extension of winter fuel payments to more “vulnerable” groups, and a standard mandatory social tariff that would help groups such as disabled people in fuel poverty.
15 July 2009