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Social Policy Options and Fuel Poverty


The concept of ‘fuel poverty’, the inability to afford adequate warmth at home has become a focus for social policies in recent years. Increasing numbers of households dependent on social security and the likelihood that fuel will become more expensive mean that the existing problem of fuel poverty may become even greater. The data on fuel expenditure and related variables from three national surveys are used to evaluate various policy options for relieving fuel poverty. Three policies for increasing incomes to pay for fuel costs are considered, increasing benefits, introducing a fuel allowance or extending the existing scheme of additional heating requirements. The policies for reducing fuel expenditure are also considered, restructuring tariffs, changing payment methods and conservation measures. The case is made for priority to be given to an advice and information campaign and a conservation programme aimed at poor households who are unable to respond to existing price signals and grants.