On Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, we want to bring awareness to the rising levels of fuel poverty in Newham and the work that we are doing to tackle this. Newham has one of the highest rates of fuel poverty in England, with nearly a fifth of households affected in 2020, before the current cost of living crisis. Our work in Newham is vital to the community – especially for residents who face many barriers to accessing help available; be it through language, mobility, or digital access.
What is Fuel Poverty?
Fuel poverty is someone on a low income who cannot keep their home warm at a reasonable cost. It is affected by three key factors: a household’s income, their fuel costs, and their energy consumption (which in turn is affected by the energy efficiency of the dwelling).
However, fuel poverty is directly linked to the current cost-of-living crisis. As the cost of everyday essentials like food and bills increases more quickly than the average household income, many households are finding themselves struggling to keep up with bills, leaving some with the tough decision of having to choose between eating or heating during the winter months.
Who is most at risk?
- Homes with low energy efficiency ratings
- Living in rented accommodation, with the private rented sector seeing the highest proportion of tenants in fuel poverty
- Unemployed or part-time employed head of household
- Long-term illness or disability
- Pre-payment meters and standard variable energy tariffs
- Lone-parent or pensioner households
In January 2023, we launched our Stay Warm in Newham Project in partnership with the Cadent Foundation and Groundwork. This project was created to provide Newham residents with access to practical and personalised energy support, as well as warm bank sessions, energy-related hardship grants, and other activities that can aid their energy efficiency at home.
So far, we have provided:
- 121 referrals for Newham residents to Groundworks Green Doctors
- 107 Energy Advice Appointments
- 111 warm bank sessions
- Energy-saving tips to 216 Newham residents
- 22 Energy Champion Volunteers with Groundwork Training
Further to this, on the 8th of November 2023 we launched our Community Energy Champions Project – an extension of the Stay Warm in Newham project with an emphasis on community outreach. This extension will allow us to actively reach out to the community and create community links so that the Renewal Programme can ensure all vulnerable residents in Newham are aware of the help available. This project is funded by Groundwork, Skills Enterprise, and the Newham Council.
Ms Neetu Kumar’s Story
Ms. Kumar is an elderly resident living alone and is considered vulnerable due to her age and medical conditions. She is a regular recipient of the Renewal Programme’s Food Bank Service and has been struggling with high energy and water bills, and an extremely cold home. She was therefore referred to the Stay Warm in Newham project where an application was made on her behalf to the Thames Water Assistance Fund, resulting in a 50% reduction in her water bill. Staff then arranged for Ms Kumar to receive home visits from Groundworks Green Doctors, who assessed her property, provided her with personalised energy advice as well as energy-saving devices including light bulbs, radiator panels, and draft proofing. Amongst the practical support provided, Ms. Kumar has also been attending free cooking and painting sessions at the Renewal Programme – designed to help residents take care of their well-being and access the support they need.
We at the Renewal Programme are determined more than ever to stand with Newham residents during these trying times.
The Cadent Foundation has been working with charities and partners since 2019. They aim to help households find sustainable solutions to tackle fuel poverty and ensure people are safe and warm in their homes.
Groundwork is a federation of charities mobilising practical community action on poverty and the environment across the UK. They aim to create a vibrant and green future through supporting and empowering communities.