One in eight Thanet households are in fuel poverty, according to Thanet council leader Rick Everitt.
In a motion being put before Thanet council next week about the need to retain uplifted Universal Credit payments, the leader quotes the fuel poverty statistic.
Living in fuel poverty is defined as being on a lower income and living in a home which cannot be kept warm at reasonable cost.
This is usually caused by poor energy efficiency, such as inadequate insulation and old or inefficient heating systems. A major cause is also high energy prices, which are often made worse by higher tariffs for both low-volume users and those not able to pay via direct debit such as pre-payment customers and residents unable to access the cheapest ‘online only’ deals.
Government fuel poverty reports suggest those most impacted are those on low incomes, the elderly, people with children under 16, people with disabilities and long term illnesses. Most of those affected will live in Band D properties.
The most recent published statistics are for 2018 which show 67,801 (9%) households in Kent and Medway estimated to be living in fuel poverty, a reduction of 5,209 on the previous year. The highest levels of fuel poverty were in Thanet, 6826 households (10.7%). This has reduced since 2017 when 7802 households were defined as in fuel poverty – equating to 12.3%.
The lowest levels of fuel poverty in 2018 were in Dartford, 2926 households (6.8%)
The impact of covid restrictions – and more time spent in the home –as well as lower incomes due to furlough or redundancy are likely to have increased these figures.
A current government fund means the council is operating a scheme until the end of March to help households defined as in fuel poverty. This can only be done by referral from organisations such as social services, Ageless Thanet and via food banks.
The covid winter grant scheme helps with things such as fuel bills, emergency heaters, clothing, bedding, cookers and food. Further assistance can come from GloGen, Citizens Advice and Thanet council’s home energy staff.
Between November and February Thanet council has helped just under 200 households, with 79 accessing insulation, 26 gaining Green Homes Grants for renewable energy, 45 helped with broken boilers, 158 needing help with loft or cavity insulation and 60 needing help with utility bills and debts.
Those most in need in Thanet have been people on low incomes with energy bills coming in at £250 per month and above.
Worst hit areas
The Thanet housing and homelessness strategy published last year says the local authority’s own build programme will continue with a focus on making sure properties are energy efficient to lower utility bills.
The highest concentrations of fuel poverty in Thanet are in the private sector and are found in wards of Cliftonville West, Margate Central and Eastcliff with excess cold concentrated in the Thanet Villages, Dane Valley and Central Harbour.
Some 11% of the private sector homes in Thanet also contain a Category 1 Hazard, defined by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System as a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety. This relates to damp and mould in properties. The report says the cost of dealing with these hazards would be approximately £18.8m.
Thanet council aims to invest more in energy measures for homes including heating improvement, double glazing, solid wall insulation and solar hot water, which will enable over 36% reduction in energy demand.
A reduction of 20% in energy demands could also be made by implementing heating improvements within tower blocks across the district.
Council deputy leader Helen Whitehead, who has responsibility for housing, said: “Fuel poverty causes significant problems for households, and as a council we aim to tackle it in both the short and long term. The COVID Winter Grant provides help over this period via referral, and we are currently working to ensure that all privately rented homes have an adequate energy rating to ensure residents are protected both within Council and private rentals.
“Long term we are incorporating energy saving measures into our new builds, such as solar panels and underfloor heating to offset energy bills and provide green energy.”
Thanet council, as part of Kent-wide scheme on behalf of the Kent and Medway Sustainable Energy Partnership, has signed a Help to Heat Local Authority Flexible Eligibility Statement of Intent.
This means the authority intends to identify households who could be eligible for government’s ECO: Help to Heat funding.
The scheme is part of the government’s Affordable Warmth programme. Thanet council will use the Local Authority Flexible Eligibility scheme to direct funding to residents who struggle to heat their home to a comfortable standard, or who have a specific condition which may make them more vulnerable to the effects of a cold home.
The statement says: “Through this scheme Thanet District Council intends to reduce fuel poverty and minimise the health risks associated with living in a cold home.”
For further information on energy saving and grants and schemes that are available to help fund the installation of energy efficiency measures, contact firstname.lastname@example.org