What can be done?


User feedback from Cambridge Climate Just event, January 2015 © Climate UK


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Identify those living in fuel poverty


If local authorities and their partners understand where fuel poor households are located and the specific reasons for their fuel poverty, this can help to target them for programmes such as home improvement initiatives. No single measure can be used to easily pinpoint households living in fuel poverty; however, the characteristics of people and their dwellings listed below can help to identify the households or areas affected.1


Working in partnership with others may help to overcome some of the difficulties in identifying specific groups who are more likely to experience fuel poverty and problems caused by data protection issues.  Certain groups are known to be at greater risk of fuel poverty such as people with a disability or long term illness, older people and children (see Section 1: Who are we concerned about?).  However, due to data protection regulations, personal information cannot be shared without the permission of the person. This can create problems for local authorities when designing outreach programmes that require sharing personal details with a delivery partner (see Government guidance).  Information regarding who uses prepayment meters is held by energy companies - they would similarly be unable to share this information with local authorities due to data protection. See the section on partnership working for more on how collaboration can help and the health section on how existing registers might be used.


Fuel poor households can be identified using non-personal information. In view of limitations due to data protection of personal characteristics, local authorities can alternatively identify fuel poor households using three main criteria: low income, private rented housing and low energy efficiency housing.  While this data is not as useful as that discussed in the previous paragraph, it is widely available. It is discussed in more detail below:

  • Low income households, including older or disabled people, or low-income families with dependent children. Areas with a high proportion of low income households can be identified by using indicators such as average income, unemployment or proportion of people employed in jobs requiring only elementary skills. See the map tool for links to maps of some of these indicators for your local area. However, quite a large number of households can potentially move in or out of poverty quite quickly. Up to one-third of UK households experience financial strain, finding it difficult to manage, within any five-year period. Around five percent of households remain poor over longer periods of time, and those who are most vulnerable to the cold (pensioners, the long term sick and disabled, and young children), are over-represented in this group. Therefore it is this group of long-term poor households that is the most likely to be affected by fuel poverty.2


  • Private tenants.  Privately rented properties tend to have the lowest energy efficiency and a large proportion of private tenants have a low income.  Areas with a high proportion of private renters can be identified based on the data in the map tool.  Private renters may be difficult to identify due to moving more frequently than other tenures; in 2012-13, a third of private rented sector tenants had moved within the past year.3 However, areas with a high proportion of privately rented properties can be identified, either through Census data, or at a higher resolution, by local authorities keeping registers of privately rented properties in a given area. Many local authorities already do this and use registers for providing targeted information.  Those households waiting for social housing or in receipt of housing benefits may be the most likely private renters to be affected by persistent fuel poverty.4


  • Properties characterised by low energy efficiency. Inefficient dwellings including terraced or semi-detached properties with non-cavity walls, usually built before 1945, can also be identified, for example by using Google Streetmap, thermal imaging, historical area maps and maps of conservation areas for older properties, and/or using Energy Performance Certificate data which can be bought from the government register. It can also be bought from private companies which sell marketing data. In a similar way to identifying private tenants, properties of a particular age or type are usually clustered together in a particular area as they were built at the same time.   


GP referrals may provide a useful way of finding and targeting members of fuel poor households living with fuel poverty who have other characteristics which make them sensitive to cold temperatures.  The health problems associated with living in cold homes mean GPs are well placed to identify those suffering the negative consequences of fuel poverty and see that they get help.  See the Blackpool case study below.


Below are several case studies of effective approaches used by local authorities to identify fuel poor households. Learning from other local authorities’ experience is a useful way to develop plans in other localities:

  • Salford's Affordable Warmth Scheme used thermal imaging to identify households that would benefit from either free or discounted insulation. The scheme utilised CERT funding and targets were surpassed as uptake was so high.
  • Warmer Worcestershire has produced a heat loss map based on the energy efficiency characteristics of properties.
  • Blackpool City Council ran a pilot project with NHS Blackpool that used their flu vaccine mailing lists to inform people about the options available to them.  This avoids the issue of sharing personal data by instead targeting people likely to be at risk in cold weather.



Provide relevant information to individuals and households


Train a broad range of relevant front line staff in energy efficiency, fuel poverty and maximisation of income. Provide basic training in energy efficiency to council staff, Citizens Advice Bureaux, Registered Social Landlords, Age UK, and other organisations working with vulnerable people in your area. Seek alternative sources of funding to provide training for a wider range of agencies.5 Almost 70% of Barnardo’s family workers reported that families do not know what support is available6 so ensuring people know what help is available (and keeping this knowledge up to date) needs to be a key priority.


Distribute energy efficiency leaflets to residents in your area. For example, make leaflets available at key locations, such as doctors surgeries, job centres, travel hubs, libraries etc. See the Government’s Keep Warm Keep Well booklet for an example of information, or the public health messages from the Cold Weather Plan for England


Improve private sector tenants' knowledge of their rights to request energy saving measures, as they are often unaware of their legal rights.

  • The landlord must provide the EPC certificate. Since 1 October 2008 it has been a legal requirement to provide an EPC free of charge to new tenants under regulation 5 of The Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007.


  • From April 2016 landlords in the private rented sector in England and Wales will not be able to refuse reasonable requests from their tenants to install energy efficiency measures. Guidance for tenants, landlords and others with an interest in private rented property is now available from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy7


  • From April 2018, landlords in the private rented sector in England and Wales will not be allowed to let a property below EPC rating E. This will mean that properties in band F and G cannot be rented, although there will be exceptions, such as cases where the landlord cannot obtain planning consent or where all the cost effective measures that could be carried out at no upfront cost to the landlord have been completed8.


  • Generation Rent (formerly the National Private Tenants Organisation) encourages tenants to shop around for a better deal on their energy supply.



Provide advice, information, and referrals to other services for fuel poor households. Some examples of local authorities doing this this are listed below:

  • Huntingdonshire District Council runs free fuel poverty advice and information events for voluntary organisations and health and housing professionals. These events provide housing officers, environmental health officers, community support workers, health professionals, local housing associations, and others with the necessary tools and advice to help identify and assist vulnerable households who require support to increase the energy efficiency of their homes.


  • The Winter Survival Campaign in Liverpool was a drop-in event aimed at older people, providing information about how to keep warm and safe during the winter months, with a range of stakeholders from public bodies and non-governmental agencies.  This campaign also involved a number of roadshow events in various locations across the city, including health centres, GP surgeries and libraries.


  • Blackburn with Darwen’s DASH (Decent and Safe Homes) service provides advice on how to keep homes warm whilst keeping energy bills down. It also offers a free handyman service for residents aged over 60 or those getting disability living allowance. The Guidance for Living Over Winter (GLOW) scheme also refers people to DASH. Backed by the Council, NHS and voluntary organisations, it sees winter advice guidelines issued to anyone who knows, lives or works with older or vulnerable people and can get them extra help. 



  • The Warmer Worcestershire Partnership provides information through staff and volunteers who are already in contact with vulnerable residents and this has been key to reaching out to groups of residents. A staff member from the local energy advice service has also been placed on the mobile library service to reach those residents in rural communities who would get the most benefit from information and support services, but who do not travel to access services.


More detailed information for individuals is available from Home Heat Helpline or Fuel Poverty Action.



Raise awareness of national schemes and policies


Raise awareness of the financial support for fuel payments available. As at 2014:

  • Winter Fuel Payments are available for those over 62
  • Cold Weather Payments are made during periods of very cold weather to help people to pay for extra heating costs, and are available to those in receipt of certain benefits
  • Warm Home Discount Scheme  – participating energy companies provide a discount (£140 for winter 2014-15) on the electricity bills of certain customers.



Raise awareness of the grant schemes for improving energy efficiency

  • Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is an energy efficiency programme for both homeowners and people living in privately rented accommodation. Under the Energy Company Obligation (often simply called ECO), some low income households can get grants to cover the whole cost of cavity wall or loft insulation, and significant grants towards other improvements like new boilers. Other people are eligible for grants for cavity wall and loft insulation because they live in a particular location, known as a Carbon Saving Community area. Currently, everybody else can claim a grant towards the cost of cavity wall or loft insulation, or insulating a ‘hard-to-treat’ cavity wall.
  • Consideration should be given to how different households can make best use of the schemes on offer. Low income households are unlikely to be willing or able to take up Green Deal finance as they may be debt averse and/or already struggling to pay for household essentials such as energy bills. A loan may not be appropriate for these households and ECO funding would be preferable. Private rented sector tenants are also unlikely to take up Green Deal finance, although landlords can use it to improve their properties. From 2016 there will be regulations designed to encourage private rented sector tenants to request energy efficiency improvements from their landlords, and to oblige landlords to make improvements.9 ECO requires a survey to be undertaken on the property before measures are installed. There is usually a charge for this, which may be refunded when measures are installed, or provided free in the case of lower income households.



Raise awareness of the fuel poverty problem and available solutions among professionals


Work with Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) to support them in improving their properties and helping their fuel poor tenants. Local authorities can support RSLs in making sure the Decent Homes Standard is met and in accessing resources to further improve their properties. They can also help them to support their fuel poor tenants with advice and signposting to other schemes, for example, benefits checks.


Alert private landlords to the fact that the 2011 Energy Act provides for regulations to improve the energy efficiency performance of the private rented sector. From April 2016 landlords will not be able to refuse reasonable requests for consent to install Green Deal measures from the tenants. Subsequently, from April 2018, it will be illegal to rent out residential or business premises that do not reach a minimum energy efficiency standard (the standard is not set in the Act but it is expected to be EPC rating 'E').10


Some local authorities have produced advice for landlords in the private rented sector on fuel poverty:

  • Sheffield City Council provides advice on housing standards and how this relates to health hazards in private rented sector properties, including excess cold, for both landlords and tenants.
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea similarly provides detailed advice on fuel poverty and energy efficiency in the private rented sector.


Landlord’s Energy Saving Allowance (LESA) was introduced to encourage landlords to improve the energy efficiency of let residential properties. It is an allowance for the cost of acquiring and installing certain energy-saving items.  The allowance is available on qualifying expenditure on specified energy saving items incurred before 6 April 2015.


Up-to-date information about available grants for improving energy efficiency can be found on the Energy Saving Trust website.



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