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What is fuel poverty

Fuel poverty effects around 4 million households in the UK. There are 3 main factors that influence a household’s ability to keep warm and power their home:

  • Rising/High energy prices
  • low income
  • energy inefficient homes

Many households face a ‘choice’ between adequately heating and powering their home or spending money on other essential outgoings such as rent, food costs etc. Sadly, many are forced to ‘heat or eat’, use less energy and live in cold homes.

There are almost 30,000 fuel poor households in West Sussex. As a front line worker, you have a crucial role to play in identifying people who are vulnerable in cold weather and supporting them to access the help that’s available. A few words of advice from a trusted professional can make all the difference.

The impacts

Did you know that cold homes are currently a bigger killer across the UK then road accidents, alcohol or drug abuse?      (NEA, 2015)

Living in a cold home is:

  • Bad for our health.
  • Each year around 10,000 people die as a result of living in a cold home.
  • Cold homes can cause or worsen a range of serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, bronchitis, and asthma.
  • Fuel poverty can also have a significant impact on mental health and is a known risk factor for suicide.
  • Cold homes have wider implications, such as preventing children to thrive educationally.
  • A cold home increases the risk of falls in the elderly.




The solutions

Fuel poverty is not inevitable. By tackling the 3 factors

  • High energy costs
  • Low income
  • Inefficient homes

A householder can be supported out of fuel poverty. Ways to do this include:

  • Providing financial and advocacy support to help struggling households
  • Improve the heating and insulation of their properties
  • Having effective health and wellbeing referral pathways

It is also important to support householders to navigate the complexities of the energy market, including raising awareness of home energy support schemes and grants.

Fuel poverty is a complex public health issue in the widest sense, it is not a stand-alone issue, and therefore it is important to work collaboratively across departments and organisations. It can for example involve housing standards, benefits advice, energy efficiency measures, health, wellbeing, financial support.

We are keen to build on our work with health professionals and social care organisations, as outlined in the NICE guidelines on Excess winter deaths and illness and the health risks associated with cold homes .

Hand picking up a plastic green house