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Fuel Poverty

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 25 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps his Department is taking to meet the Government's 2010 target to eradicate fuel poverty in (a) vulnerable households with a disabled person and (b) all vulnerable households. (241930)

Tackling fuel poverty is a priority for the Government. Our present policies and programmes, in particular with the changes announced in recent months, underline our commitment to do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure that vulnerable households do not live in fuel poverty.

We have set in place a wide range of measures to tackle fuel poverty and so far have spent more than £20 billion on policies and programmes to alleviate fuel poverty.

Since 2000 we have assisted over 2 million households in England in the private sector through the Warm Front Scheme by fitting insulation and heating improvements for households in receipt of means-tested or disability-related benefits. The scheme now has a budget of over £950 million for the spending years 2008-09 to 2010-11.

The Government's programmes also assist vulnerable households through the provision of income-based policies. We have increased the winter fuel payments, which helped keep 12 million people warm last winter, by an extra £50 for pensioners aged 60-79 and £100 for those over 80, and this will continue next winter. We have also increased cold weather payments from £8.50 to £25 per week and made 8.4 million payments worth £210 million between November 2008 and March 2009.

To ensure as many households as possible are eligible for assistance we have arranged for benefit entitlement checks to be carried out through Warm Front. To date some 48,000 checks have been completed. The average increase in income for applicants identifying new benefits is £30.64 per week or £1,590 per year.

A review of our fuel poverty policies is under way. The review is examining whether existing measures to tackle fuel poverty could be made more effective, and whether new policies should be introduced to help us make further progress towards our goals, particularly in light of market conditions and our aims to reduce carbon emissions.