Cold front for 10,000 who are 'too poor' for fuel poverty scheme

09 December 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
Thousands of households which are eligible for the Government's 'Warm Front' scheme which contributes to the cost of carrying out energy saving measures on their homes, have had to withdraw from the scheme because they cannot afford the additional costs.

According to analysis of Government statistics seen by The Times, 11,020 households which qualify for the grants have pulled out this year because they cannot afford it, accounting for about 10 per cent of the 110,000 eligible households which have applied.

As part of its plans to alleviate fuel poverty by 2010, the Government introduced the Warm Front scheme in 2001 to provide funding for vulnerable people such as the elderly and low-income families.

It contributes a portion of the costs for installing energy-saving home improvements, paying the first £2,700, or £4,000 for those with oil-fired central heating, leaving householders with the rest of the bill.

The grants have been capped at these levels for four years, despite the rising costs of labour and materials, prompting consumer campaigners to urge the Government to increase the grants and thus enable more people to cover the additional cost.

This has become especially poignant this year, as fuel bills rose 40 per cent in the first three quarters of the year, households struggle to keep up with mortgage payments to avoid repossession, and the elderly have watched as their pension investments trickle away in a tumbling stock market.

Charity for the elderly, Age Concern, told the BBC that the Warm Front scheme is a "failure", and highlighted the fact that those most likely to withdraw from the scheme, because they can afford it the least, are those who need it the most.

It is "outrageous" that such a scheme, established to help those most at risk, expects the poorest people – such as pensioners and low-income families – to find hundreds or even thousands of pounds to pay the extra cost, said Gordon Loshman, director of Age Concern.

"This is leaving thousands of the most vulnerable households with no option other than to live in cold and energy-inefficient homes" he said.

"If the Government is serious about helping the poorest households out of fuel poverty, it must urgently raise the Warm Front grant and review the problems with the scheme."

© Fair Investment Company Ltd