What is fuel poverty?
Households are now defined as fuel poor if they face high fuel costs and are on a low income.
This approach means DECC has to set two thresholds – one for fuel costs and one for income.
The threshold for low income is set at 60% of median income (which lines up with standard poverty measurements conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions) plus the individual household’s modelled energy needs. Adding bills in this way captures those households that are pushed into poverty by their energy costs. DECC measures income after housing costs and adjusted for household type and size, because some households need more fuel and some need less, to achieve the same standard of living.
The Atlas presents two indicators of fuel poverty, both at a detailed level (known as Lower Super Output Areas or LSOA). It compares these small areas with district, sub-region and country-wide data.
- The number and percentage of households spending 10% or more of their income on fuel, measured each year from 2008 to 2012.
- The number and percentage of households estimated to be “high energy cost and low income”, measured each year from 2011 to 2014 (replacing the first measure).
The data in this interactive atlas comes from Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) estimates for both measures, covering 2008 to 2014. Please follow this link to access the DECC data.
Effects of fuel poverty
The Hills Fuel Poverty Review identifies that although connected to general poverty, fuel poverty should be considered a separate and important issue for a number of reasons including:
- Britain has a high level of excess winter deaths compared to other countries with similar climates. If only a tenth of these are directly attributable to fuel poverty, this accounts for 2,700 deaths a year in England and Wales.
- Living in a cold home has detrimental effects on physical health and mental health, particularly respiratory and cardio vascular conditions.
- People living in cold homes are more likely to experience social isolation.
- There is some association between cold homes and truancy, anti-social behaviour and negative effects on education attainment.
- People living in a property which is difficult to keep warm may have to face a hard choice between heating and eating. There is some evidence of reduced food spending during the coldest periods by pensioners on the lowest incomes.