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Senedd Committee calls for Welsh Government action to tackle fuel poverty crisis

16 May 2022 3 minute read
Photo by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash.

A Senedd report is calling for the Welsh Government to take immediate action to help the poorest in Wales to heat their homes.

The report from the Equality and Social Justice Committee also criticised previous attempts by the government to address the problem of fuel poverty in Wales.

Official figures published last month showed that almost 200,000 households in Wales – 14% – were living in fuel poverty in October 2021 and a further 153,000 households were at risk of fuel poverty since OFGEM raised the domestic energy cap by 54% in April.

Bills for the average household whose tariff is tied to the energy price cap rose to £1,971 on April 1 after the price of gas soared over previous months.

Last week Downing Street refused to rule out the possibility that energy bills could rise by nearly £1,000 for most customers when the regulator next reviews the price cap in the autumn.

The Welsh Government defines fuel poverty as households needing to pay more than 10% of their income on heating their home.

National crisis

Jenny Rathbone MS, Chair of the Equality and Social Justice Committee, said: “Fuel poverty is now a national crisis with high energy prices, particularly for gas, rising continuously.

“If the Welsh Government is serious about helping people in fuel poverty this winter, it needs to adopt some emergency measures to improve the warmth of badly insulated homes that families can’t afford to heat.”

The Senedd Equality and Social Justice Committee report also calls on the Welsh Government to learn from previous attempts to reduce fuel poverty after its inquiry revealed multiple failures in their flagship Warm Homes Programme.

The Programme, made up of two schemes, ‘Nest’ and ‘Arbed’, was specifically created for households either in, or at risk of fuel poverty. But today’s report found that the scale, size, and purpose of these programmes failed to match the level of need in Wales.

The schemes were designed to provide central heating systems such as boilers, solar panels, insulation and energy efficient lighting to enable people to save money on their bills.

Fossil Fuel

The report criticised the schemes for overwhelmingly prioritising installing fossil fuel heating systems over other measures, such as insulation, and recommended that the next programme should be much greener to better align with Wales’ climate change commitments.

MS Rathbone added: “Schemes like the Warm Homes Programme had admirable aims to reduce both fuel-poverty and carbon emissions; but this report shows that it has been – in many ways – a failure. The evidence shows the support this programme provided did not reach many people who now desperately need this help.

“The next programme must be much bigger in scale and do a better job of targeting those who are in greatest need. It must aim to be greener as well as fairer, – not just giving away gas boilers.”

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