Thousands cannot afford to keep their homes warm and well-lit, data and charity warning suggests, reports Elizabeth Atkin
More than one-fifth of Waltham Forest households are believed to be living in fuel poverty, a new government report shows.
The report, produced by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is based on the most recent 2019 data – and shows that the borough is one of seven Local Authorities in England with a fuel poverty rate above 20%.
The figures, based on the Low Income Low Energy Efficiency (LILEE) fuel poverty metric, are curated using modelling based on data from the English Housing Survey (EHS).
It defines fuel poverty as a household with an energy efficiency rating (Energy Performance Certificate, or EPC) in the lower bands of D, E, F or G – which typically indicate higher energy costs – and whose income would be below the poverty line after taking off housing and energy costs.
The report also states that the government has factored in those who “actively limit their use of energy at home” to save money – adding: “The government is interested in the amount of energy people need to consume to have a warm, well-lit home, with hot water for everyday use, and the running of appliances.
“Therefore, fuel poverty is measured based on required energy bills rather than actual spending.”
Analysis by the charity National Energy Action (NEA) estimated that the exact percentage of households – 21.1% – equates to 21,742 Waltham Forest homes.
NEA said in a statement: “Almost 22,000 households in Waltham Forest cannot afford to keep their homes warm. They are likely to be living in cold, damp and unsafe properties.
“It makes illnesses, such as respiratory and circulatory diseases worse, and takes a toll on their mental health. While those affected are hit the hardest, it also places an avoidable strain on local health and social services.
“Warm homes should be a basic right for all. In Waltham Forest they are a pressing local priority.’’
Waltham Forest Council estimates that there are around 2,700 residential properties in the borough that have an EPC rating of E or below – with a majority of these households living with a combined income of less than £30,000 a year.
A council spokesperson said: “We know the damage to educational prospects, health, and life chances that fuel poverty causes and we are determined to address these issues.
“We work with our partners at The HEET Project to improve insulation and energy-saving measures in homes across Waltham Forest. Over the past two years, HEET has supported 284 households, of which 260 were vulnerable with long-term health conditions. Each of these households saved an average of £538 on their annual energy bill.
“Earlier this year we were awarded nearly £1.8 million from the government’s Green Homes Grant to improve the homes and lives of lower-income residents who may struggle with fuel bills.
“Work is already taking place to insulate the first homes to benefit, with more planned over the coming months, and the average EPC rating has increased at properties where work is complete by at least two grades from E to C.
“These improvements not only address fuel poverty in lower-income families but help us reach our longer-term aim of achieving zero carbon by 2030.”
On a regional level, the government report found that South-East England had one of the lowest levels of fuel poverty, with 7.5% of households considered ‘fuel poor’.
The full report, published at the end of April, can be found on gov.uk here