A Senedd report is calling for the Welsh Government to take immediate action to help the poorest in Wales to heat their homes.
With 14% of households in Wales already living in fuel poverty, and the numbers predicted to rise to a staggering 45% of households following the energy price cap rises in April 2022, the committee heard evidence from people in communities across Wales who are living in fear of how they’ll pay their bills this winter.
The Welsh Government defines fuel poverty as households needing to pay more than 10% of their income on heating their home.
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.”
John Williams, from Swansea, is currently living in fuel poverty. He said:
“My heating’s been off for a while, I’m trying not to use the kettle as much and I haven’t used the tumble dryer in a couple of months. To be honest, if I can spend the day out of the house to save electricity, I will.
“My mental health and anxiety have gotten much worse recently. I can barely manage at the moment but if the prices go up again, I’m really going to be in trouble.”
The Senedd Equality and Social Justice Committee report 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.
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.
Jenny Rathbone MS 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.”
Giving evidence to the Committee, Care and Repair Cymru criticised the focus on installing gas boilers and the low proportion of interventions that involved insulation:
“Simply replacing faulty boilers does not mean that a household will no longer struggle with fuel poverty if heat is still escaping from their properties and their energy bills remain high because of it. Installing new heating systems into homes without insulating a home is like buying a teapot with cracks in it.”
Fuel Poverty and the Warm Homes Programme