Consumer Focus is warning that today’s announced freeze on applications for the Government’s Warm Front scheme1, and funding cuts for the scheme, could deprive thousands of vulnerable households of the help they need to make their homes warm and cut their energy bills.
The consumer watchdog is very concerned that the 50,000 of the poorest households are already on a waiting list for the scheme. This is of particular concern as funding for the scheme will be drastically reduced next year to £110 million, down from the £345 million spent on the scheme this year, and will fall further to £100 million in 2012/13. Consumer Focus fears that as a result the number of the poorest households on the waiting list for help will increase dramatically over the next two years.
Audrey Gallacher, Head of Energy at Consumer Focus, said:
‘Thousands of low income homes will be hit not only by the freezing weather, but also by the freezing of the Government scheme set up to make their homes warmer. This could leave many of the most vulnerable pensioners, families and disabled people without the help they need to keep their homes warm and cut their bills.
‘Funding for Warm Front has been cut by two thirds so when the scheme starts again in April it will be on a drastically reduced scale and the waiting list of thousands will get even longer. The Government must make sure the poorest households get the help they need.’
The Government has announced that it intends to discontinue the publicly-funded Warm Front scheme from 2013. Energy supplier-run schemes will then be expected to provide energy efficiency measures to low income households under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
Consumer Focus wants the Government to take the following steps to make sure the poorest households get the help needed to make their homes energy efficient:
- To help mitigate the funding shortfall now, money from the energy supplier-run CERT scheme should be used to pay for the energy efficiency measures currently carried out under Warm Front.2
- If energy firm run schemes are to take over responsibility for energy efficiency measures for low income households these schemes must be subjected to much greater levels of scrutiny and accountability. The schemes must also be given an explicit responsibility for reducing fuel poverty, as is the case for Warm Front.
- The amount of money from energy firm run schemes ring-fenced for low income customers must be increased dramatically from the current 40% target.
Notes to editors:
- Warm Front is the only UK Government funded scheme to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency. The Warm Front Grant applies in England only.
- Consumer Focus recommends that reduced Warm Front funding is used to concentrate on heating repairs and installation. CERT funding should be used to pay for the energy efficiency measures directed at fuel poor homes which Warm Front currently carries out, such as cavity wall insulation, loft insulation and draft-proofing.
Warm Front has helped 2 million low income households to date. It has cut household running costs by hundreds of pounds, cut household carbon emissions on average by a quarter and has significantly improved many people’s health.