Public Health

Joint Strategic Needs Assessment on fuel poverty

Fuel poverty is a rapidly worsening concern in the UK. The main factors affecting fuel poverty are fuel prices, household income and the energy efficiency of homes. At the end of 2022, more people were moving into fuel poverty due to the rising cost of living and worsening inflation.

Measuring fuel poverty

Fuel poverty in England is measured using the Low-Income Low Energy Efficiency indicator. This considers a household to be 'fuel-poor' if:

  • it is living in a property with an energy efficiency rating of band D, E, F or G as determined by the most up-to-date Fuel Poverty Energy Efficiency Rating
  • its disposable income – that is, income after housing costs and energy needs – would be below the poverty line

The 'fuel poverty gap' is the amount a household would need to make up to not be classified as fuel-poor. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reported that the cost burden between poor and rich households is more uneven in the UK than in any other country in Europe.

Country Percentage of income spent on energy by the richest 10% Percentage of income spent on energy by the poorest 10% Gap in percentages between richest and poorest
UK 6.1% 17.8% 11.7
Portugal 9.2% 16.7% 7.5
Czech Republic 12.6% 18.8% 6.2
Italy 7.2% 13.4% 6.2
Slovakia 10.6% 16.0% 5.4
Estonia 7.9% 12.8% 4.9
Belgium 5.6% 10.4% 4.8
Poland 10.1% 14.7% 4.6
Ireland 6.7% 10.6% 3.9
France 6.3% 10.2% 3.9

Effects of fuel poverty

Fuel poverty is distributed unequally. Households more likely to be in fuel poverty include:

  • single-parent households
  • households with older, disabled, and unemployed individuals
  • households living in privately rented accommodation
  • black and ethnic minority households
  • households paying energy bills via prepayment method

Fuel poverty has significant effects on the physical and mental health of people. Those more risk if they live in a cold home include:

  • older people
  • the very young
  • people with chronic diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease
  • people with multiple chronic conditions (multiple comorbidities)
  • disabled people
  • people with mental health conditions

Cold homes are also known to delay recovery after hospital discharge, cause falls and worsens musculoskeletal symptoms. About 20% of the excess winter deaths in Britain can be attributed to living in a cold home.

Fuel poverty in Thurrock

About 9,000 residents of Thurrock are in fuel poverty. At 13.4% of households, fuel poverty is marginally higher than in England as a whole.

The University of York has been modelling predictions of fuel poverty. They estimate the proportion of households spending more than 20% of their income on fuel will increase from 9.2% to 15% and the proportion spending more than 10% will increase from 27.9% to 38.1%. It's estimated that fuel poverty in Thurrock will increase from 9,000 to 12,300 and 14,700 households.

Help is available to tackle fuel poverty at a national and local level. Schemes include:

  • the energy price guarantee
  • energy bills support
  • cost of living payment
  • disability cost of living payment
  • winter fuel payment
  • pensioner cost of living payment
  • cold weather payment
  • warm homes discount
  • no VAT on energy-saving materials
  • help to heat schemes

More information is available via our page on support with the cost of living.

We employ financial inclusion officers to help residents find and apply for benefits to which they're entitled, including grants for energy efficiency, government support, and energy switch schemes.

Public Health report on fuel poverty

The topic of fuel poverty was described in our 2012 Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.

We have decided to focus our 2023 annual public health report on fuel poverty. It will describe:

  • the current and predicted needs of Thurrock residents
  • what can be done to address the needs of Thurrock residents