Government Mechanisms in Place to Tackle Fuel Poverty – October 2011 as specified by Lynne Featherstone after our lobby.
The Warm Front (WF) scheme provides heating and insulation improvements to households on certain income-related benefits living in properties that are poorly insulated and/or do not have a working central heating system. To date it has helped more than 2.3m households vulnerable to fuel poverty. The Government has committed to a smaller, more targeted Warm Front until March 2013, and is expected to help a further 90,000 low income households over this time.
Under the Warm Home Discount (WHD) Scheme the big 6 energy companies are legally required to give a discount on energy bills to around 2m low income and vulnerable households per year. As part of the scheme, Government is working to use a data matching process to provide over 600,000 of the poorest pensioners with a £120 discount on their bill this winter. Other groups such as low income families and those with long term illnesses and disabilities may also receive this discount, depending on schemes offered by individual energy companies. They may also receive assistance under transitional arrangements from the previous voluntary agreement. The scheme will be worth up to £1.1 bn between April 2011 and March 2015.
The Super Priority Group element of the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) extension requires suppliers to target 15% of their new carbon savings target on households most at risk of fuel poverty. The CERT extension will have a positive impact on fuel poverty: it is estimated that over 500,000 measures will go to low income and vulnerable households over the 2 years of the CERT extension. Some of these households will be taken out of fuel poverty, while many more households will receive measures which protect them from falling into fuel poverty.
Both the CERT extension and WF scheme will have come to an end by end 2012/early 2013. The future of energy efficiency and heating support for low income vulnerable households is in the Green Deal’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO), due to begin late 2012. ECO will involve an obligation on energy suppliers with two components: one focused on carbon savings, and one focused on “Affordable Warmth” for low income vulnerable households.
Winter Fuel Payments (WFP) are annual payments to pensioner households. They are worth £200 to those who have reached women’s state pension age, and £300 for households with someone aged 80 and over. In winter 2010/11, the Winter Fuel Payment helped over 12.7 million older people in over 9 million households with their fuel bills.
The Government has permanently increased the Cold Weather Payment from £8.50 a week to £25 a week. Cold Weather Payments provide real help to those most vulnerable to the cold (i.e. disabled adults and children, the elderly and families with children under 5 who are in receipt of an income related benefit). For winter 2010/11 over 17 million Cold Weather Payments were paid, worth an estimated £430 million