Utilities, Gas and Electric Fuel Poverty Expected To Hit 4.6m Homes By The End Of The Year

Utilities, Gas and Electric Fuel Poverty Expected To Hit 4.6m Homes By The End Of The Year

New figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have warned that the number of households living in fuel poverty in England is expected to hit 4.6 million by the end of the year.

Fuel poverty is the term given when a household spends more than 10% of its income on fuel to ensure it has enough heating for its home.

The projection comes from the latest figures, which show that the number of fuel-poor households in the UK rose from 3.25 million in 2006 to four million in 2007. The increases have been blamed by the continuing rise in fuel prices.

Action is being taken by the government, which aims to eradicate fuel poverty in vulnerable households ñ those that contain the elderly, children or somebody who is disabled or suffers from long term sickness – by next year. It will then attempt to end fuel poverty entirely by 2016.

However, those aims have now been made more difficult by the latest figures, which show that fuel poverty has risen dramatically year on year, from 2.4 million in 2006 to 2.8 million in 2007 in England.

These figures came before the big spike in household energy bills in 2008, although they fell back partly at the start of 2009. This has been taken into account in the projected figures for 2009.

The DECC’s findings have come as the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) revealed the number of people falling behind with fuel bills had increased by nearly 50% in the past six months, and by 82% over the past three years.

The CAB has reported a 46% increase on last yearís figures for the number of people seeking help for their growing fuel bills between April and September.

According to the report, eight out of 10 people who were behind with their energy bills had incomes which were half the national average, with 32% living off less than £400 a month, while a quarter of people with fuel debt had a disability.

David Harker, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We are already seeing large increases in the number of people in fuel debt and it is not yet winter.

“Recent government increases in Warm Front Grants and Cold Weather Payments will go someway towards helping but information on what help is available, targeted to those who are most vulnerable, must be a prime focus for the government and energy companies,” he added.

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