Fuel Poverty Awareness Day: Real Action

A rural scene

A rural scene


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National Energy Action is championing Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, on 11 February 2011, and it aims to raise public awareness of households who spend a significant proportion of their income on keeping warm. It is all very well talking about fuel poverty, and getting people to understand the harm it can cause, but what can you do directly to help? Let's look at it from the perspective of somebody struggling to keep warm.

Help with fuel bills

Clearly the main discriminant in the fuel poverty trap is how - and how often - you buy your fuel. Is it a regular monthly payment (such as a direct debit for gas), or is it an occasional large payment (such as refilling an oil tank)? Budgeting loans are available for the situation where large bills come along at irregular intervals, so this is an ideal option to consider if you get your fuel off-grid (heating oil, coal, etc). Crisis loans are available to anyone with an immediate short-term need or crisis, and can include shortfalls with fuel bills - gas, oil or whatever.

If you are on a gas supply then your supplier is obligated to assist you when you tell them that you are struggling to find the money. Your heating oil or coal supplier is under no such obligation, and you may well find that your only option is a budgeting loan or crisis loan. On-grid energy suppliers on the other hand offer special payment plans to help those in debt, often with on favourable repayment terms. The worst thing you can do is to keep quiet about your problems; make sure your energy supplier knows that you are struggling, and that goes for off-grid suppliers too!

All of these hardship requests are handled by the Department for Work and Pensions. You can go to your local Jobcentre Plus office, or find an online Jobcentre Plus contact.

Capital costs

You may also find yourself in fuel poverty because of an antiquated - and highly inefficient - boiler. You may be able to get a Community care grant to cover the cost of a replacement, but bear in mind that the point of the grant is to ease exceptional pressure on families, or to enable someone to stay/resettle in the community.

Ask your local energy advice centre (call 0800 512012 or see the Energy Savings Trust for more details) about grants for insulating your home. Improved insulation - including double glazing, wall insulation and loft insultation, plus pipe lagging - is the best way to get fuel bills down, and the sooner you do it the better. You may be able to recover most or all of the costs, depending on your circumstances. However, note that Warm Front - the scheme in England/Wales - is closed at present and will only re-open in April 2011 and with new eligibility criteria and less funding.

Winter Payments

You may be eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment or even a Cold Weather Payment. All over-60's can claim the winter fuel payment, as a single payment each year, to help with costs of keeping warm over winter; call 08459 151515 to check if you qualify. Eligible households are able to claim the cold weather payment, provided that exceptionally cold weather has occurred (or may occur); payments should happen automatically through the benefits system.

To read more about National Energy Action and fuel poverty day, visit their news item: Fuel Poverty Awareness Day 2011.


by Michelle Wild on 10 February 2011 Reply
No gas in our village either. Gas board also want us to pay for the pipes. Damn cheek.
by Chris Pomfret on 10 February 2011 Reply
Be under zero illusion that any off-gas rural community will EVER be brought on line to mains gas without each household paying huge amounts of money - British Gas have zero interest in extending it to retrofits as enough new builds keep them occupied. Which begs the question: why would anybody spend a large sum of money putting a new energy/heating source into their home that is an old style, fossil fuel...invest in a source that will achieve payback in as short a period as possible and then reward you with extremely low cost, renewable energy, whilst the rest of us suffer with what will only be escalating out of control fossil fuel energy costs.
by A Wishart on 10 February 2011 Reply
we moved into a house within a town 15yrs ago however although the majority of the streets were provided with gas central heating our area was electric, I approached the gas board and asked if we could get gas however it was going to cost a lot of money to get it into the street then thousands more to get it into the house, we therefore opted for oil, at that point it cost 7pence a litre, now we are paying nearly 60pence something should be done for people in our predicament it really is disgusting.
by Chris Pomfret on 10 February 2011 Reply
You are not alone in your dilemma so NEVER buy your OIL alone again. Come and join the group and benefit from group prices. You are right the industry is "disgusting" so join the movement to fight back and help to make it redesign and hold it to account. www.oilbuying.co.uk


by Robert Parker on 10 February 2011 Reply
It would be a good idea to get the supermarket chains to extend the provision of motor fuels to include heating oild delivery. If anybody can drive down price they could and be a real threat to the cosy cartels that have been created over the years.
by Chris Pomfret on 10 February 2011 Reply
I like your thinking. There is ONLY one way to get them to come to the party...we must redesign the industry from the community up! We'll see!


by Chris Pomfret on 10 February 2011 Reply
Well done for asking the question: "what can you do directly to help?" Fuel Poverty is a major issue and an awful trap to fall into. For those that live rurally it seems it can be ever more difficult to get out of, particularly for those that live in communities with no mains gas (off-gas), and even more likely for vulnerable people to not be picked up by the radar.

What can YOU do? Help us grow a huge people's movement by joining up the dots across the UK of all community OIL buying groups. Already working with Housing Associations to help vulnerable people affod their OIL. We have so many ideas how we can save money, help people step up out of Fuel Poverty and reduce CO2 emissions. Loathe to say it but win-win-win

Come and join the movement - buyers, coordinators, interested parties, all welcome!

Chris Pomfret


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