Government support to help families struggling in fuel poverty has been cut by more than a quarter in the past few years, according to a new report.
Money going to the fuel poor in England as a result of Government policies will have been reduced by 26% by next year compared to 2009 levels, the study by the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) found.
And the amount of support specifically for energy efficiency measures such as insulation for households which are paying more than 10% of their income heating their homes will have fallen by 44%. This is despite energy efficiency being the best way to help people cut fuel bills and keep warm, anti-fuel poverty campaigners said.
Much of the reduction is due to elimination of the Warm Front programme, which helped people install efficiency measures, while other efficiency schemes will also have less funding. The report estimates that the number of struggling households who will have energy efficiency measures installed in their homes to help them keep warm for less will fall from 150,000 in 2009 to 100,000 in 2013.
The number of homes being treated will fall from 3.8% of the total in fuel poverty in 2009 to just 2.6% of the 3.9 million households estimated to be in fuel poverty in England by the end of this year. In total the annual funding from Government policies for energy efficiency measures and income support on fuel bills such as winter fuel payments will fall from £3.9 billion in 2009 to £2.7 billion in 2013, the report says.
Of that total, only around a third goes to fuel poor households because the schemes are more widely targeted or it is difficult to focus funding on vulnerable families. Households in fuel poverty will see funding decline from £1.2 billion to £879 million in 2013, the report warns.
The study was commissioned by the Energy Bill Revolution, which points out that at the same time the Treasury will be levying more than £2 billion in carbon taxes from consumer bills to account for the pollution caused by generating electricity.
The Energy Bill Revolution, an alliance formed of more than 100 charities, consumer groups, businesses and unions, wants the money raised from the carbon taxes, which is adding £25 to the average electricity bill next year, to be spent on making the homes in fuel poverty super energy efficient.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) challenged ACE's figures, saying that total fuel poverty spending was £760 million in 2009/2010 and would be £828 million in 2014/2015. The figure for 2014/2015 is made up of funding levied on people's bills for the "energy companies obligation" to pay for energy efficiency measures in vulnerable homes and the "warm homes discount" for their bills.
A DECC spokesman said: "The coalition is committed to doing all that is reasonably practicable to end fuel poverty in England by 2016, and to helping people, especially low income vulnerable households, heat their homes more affordably. We have announced our intention to launch a new fuel poverty strategy in 2013 following an independent review of our framework."