United Kingdom

Fuel poverty

Key points

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Graph 1: Over time

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Graph 2: By tenure

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Graph 3: By income

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Graph 4: By income and energy efficiency

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Graph 5: By income and household type

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Graph 6: By income and type of area

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Graph 7: By region

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Why this indicator was originally chosen

People who are in fuel poverty are either paying a high proportion of their income for the essential purposes of keeping their homes warm, cooking, etc or are not using the amounts of fuel that are required to keep their home in a satisfactory living condition.

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Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the number of households deemed to be in 'fuel poverty', with the data shown separately by tenure.

The second graph shows the proportion of households in fuel poverty in each tenure.

Households are considered to be in 'fuel poverty' if they would have to spend more than 10% of their household income on fuel to keep their home in a 'satisfactory' condition, where, for example, a 'satisfactory' heating regime is considered to be one where the main living area is at 21 degrees centigrade with 18 degrees centigrade in the other occupied rooms.  It is thus a measure which compares income with what the fuel costs should be rather than what they actually are.  Household income is disposable household income before deducting housing costs, with Housing Benefit and Income Support for Mortgage Interest both counted as income.  The fuel costs included comprise that used for space heating, water heating, lighting, cooking and household appliances. 

The third graph to sixth graphs show how the proportion of households that are in fuel poverty varies by the income of household.  In the third graph, the basic statistics by household income quintile are presented.  In the fourth graph, the data is broken down by the energy efficiency of the home (for the definition of energy efficiency, see the indicator on energy efficiency).  In the fifth graph, the data is broken down by household type (single person, couple with children, etc).  In the sixth graph, the data is broken down by type of area (rural, urban, etc), using the government's 2004 classification system for small areas whereby household living in settlements of more than 10,000 are classified as 'urban' and those who are not are classified as 'rural'.  To improve their statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

The allocation of households to the poorest fifth uses 'equivalised household income' after deducting housing costs, which means that the household incomes have been adjusted to put them on a like-for-like basis given the size and composition of the households.  This means that the results are somewhat different than those in some other publications which either use unadjusted household incomes or incomes before deducting housing costs. It could be argued that, because the definition of fuel poverty uses household incomes before deducting housing costs, then the allocation of household to income quintiles should also use the same before deducting housing cost incomes.  Our response is that a) when allocating households to income groups, we use after deducting housing cost incomes throughout this website (for the reasons set out on the page on choices of low-income thresholds) and b) when analysing any particular subjects (such as fuel poverty), we always stick to the official Government definitions.  So, from this perspective, the issue is more for the Government (i.e. should they change the definition of fuel poverty so that it uses household incomes after deducting housing costs?) than for us.  Note that such a change would not be the same as using the 'basic income definition' of fuel poverty as this definition does not deducting rent, mortgage interest, etc from the household incomes.  Finally, it is worth noting that, whilst the specific proportions in the graphs would sometimes be materially different if the income groupings were based on before deducting housing cost incomes, their overall patterns would generally be similar to those presented in the graphs using after deducting housing cost incomes.

The seventh graph shows how the proportion of households in fuel poverty varies by region. Note that equivalent data is not available at a sub-regional level because the sample size of the relevant survey (the English Housing Survey) is totally insufficient to derive sub-regional estimates.  Any sub-regional estimates published by academics are the output of computer models and are NOT based on actual data.

The data source for all the graphs is the stock dataset from the English Housing Survey (EHS) and relates to England.  The 1996 data in the first graph has been amended by the government from their original estimate of 4.3 million to take account of DTI gas and electricity bill data and is taken from the 3rd annual progress report of the UK fuel poverty strategy.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  EHS is a well-established, regular government survey, designed to be nationally representative, but the calculation of required fuel costs is both complex and obscure.

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External links

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Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Increase long-term housing supply and affordability

Lead department

Department for Communities and Local Government

Official national targets

Increase the number of net additional homes provided per annum to 240,000 by 2016.

Increase the number of gross affordable homes provided per annum to 70,000 by 2010-11 including 45,000 social homes.

Halve the number of households in temporary accommodation to 50,500 households by 2010.

By March 2011, 80% of local planning authorities to have adopted the necessary Development Plan Documents, in accordance with their agreed Local Development Scheme.

Other indicators of progress

Trends in affordability.

Efficiency rating of new homes.

Previous 2004 targets

By 2010, bring all social housing into decent condition with most of this improvement taking place in deprived areas, and for vulnerable households in the private sector, including families with children, increase the proportion who live in homes that are in decent condition.

Eliminate fuel poverty in vulnerable households in England by 2010 in line with the Government's Fuel Poverty Strategy objective Joint with the department for Trade and Industry.

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The numbers

Graph 1

Year Millions
Private rented Social rented Owner occupied Total
1996 not available not available not available 5.1M
2001 0.3M 0.3M 1.2M 1.7M
2003 0.2M 0.2M 0.8M 1.2M
2004 0.2M 0.2M 0.8M 1.2M
20050.2M 0.2M 1.1M 1.5M
2006 0.4M 0.4M 1.7M 2.4M
20070.5M 0.5M 1.9M 2.8M
20080.6M 0.6M 2.1M 3.3M
20090.7M 0.8M 2.5M 4.0M

Graph 2

Private renters Social renters Owner occupiers
20% 17% 15%

Graph 3

Poorest fifth 41%
2nd 25%
3rd 12%
4th 4%
Richest fifth 0%

Graph 4

SAP ratingIn the poorest fifthNot in the poorest fifth All households
SAP rating under 3085% 39% 47%
SAP rating 30-4065% 18% 24%
SAP rating 40-5053% 10% 17%
SAP rating 50-6040% 7% 13%
SAP rating 60-7025% 3% 7%
SAP rating over 7012% 1% 4%
All households41% 10% 16%

Graph 5

GroupIn the poorest fifthNot in the poorest fifth All households
Single people under 6062% 12% 24%
Single people aged 60 or over50% 33% 34%
Couples aged 60 or over51% 10% 15%
Couples under 60 with no dependent children43% 2% 6%
Lone parents31% 6% 18%
Couples with dependent children25% 2% 7%
All households41% 10% 16%

Graph 6

Type of area In the poorest fifth All households
Rural52% 20%
Urban39% 15%

Graph 7

East 13%
East Midlands 18%
London 11%
North East 21%
North West 19%
South East 10%
South West 15%
West Midlands 22%
Yorkshire and The Humber 18%

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