Fuel Poverty is an urgent and growing problem in Birmingham affecting some of the most vulnerable in our society, Tony Thapar from the Moseley Community Development Trust calls for an “Affordable Warmth partnership” to tackle this issue
Last year, 3000 people died from problems related to fuel poverty in the UK. At the same time, the coalition Government commissioned an independent review of fuel poverty. Professor John Hills from the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion carried out the study It considered the definition of fuel poverty, targets for its reduction and the effectiveness of policies. Prof. Hills, warns that the problem is likely to worsen despite measures to try and eradicate it. It is likely to be worse in 2016 than it was in 2009.
But what’s situation like in Birmingham? Sadly, the scale of the problem is not clear. There have been a number of initiatives over the years, from different perspectives, energy conservation, decent homes, winter related deaths, income maximisation, all related to short term funding opportunities. These have been delivered by a combination of public private and voluntary sectors. However, there hasn’t been an over-arching definition of fuel poverty in the City along with a co-ordinated approach to ensure it is eliminated.
Fuel Poverty was defined by the Government as, when your energy costs where 10% or more of your income. Put simply, if you have high fuel costs and a low income and we know that fuel costs have continued to rise whilst earnings have fallen. Prof. Hill’s report recommends that a new indicator for fuel poverty is used to measure the extent of fuel poverty and a fuel poverty gap to measure its depth. Using this approach, Prof. Hills study demonstrates a growing and widespread problem in the country.
Be Birmingham’s social inclusion process has five key lines of enquiry. If we are not careful the issue of fuel poverty will be missed by all of them since tackling fuel poverty means a co-ordinated approach from all of these KLOE. The social inclusion process should lead to the creation of an Affordable Warmth Partnership for Birmingham. Other cities have one, why not Birmingham?
Over this last winter there has been the opportunity to pilot an affordable warmth partnership (AWP) in Birmingham, through the Stay Warm Stay Well project, it has worked as an AWP might and demonstrated the value of the public sector working closely with the third sector. It has also shown how multiple solutions are required: energy advice; health and housing support, money advice and crisis funds. The voluntary sector working on the ground and was able to uncover hundreds of cases of people in Birmingham living in poverty , in cold homes and without hope. It is important that a strategy for next winter and beyond is developed and the existing public and private resources are shared to tackle fuel poverty to avoid unnecessary deaths in our City. In addition we need to work out how to measure the size of this growing and urgent problem.
Moseley Community Development Trust
On behalf of the Stay Warm Stay Well delivery partners.
For more information about the report can be found at: https://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/funding/fuel_poverty/hills_review/hills_review.aspx .