New study reveals depth and impact of fuel poverty amongst rural households

The survey found that there appears to be a link between fuel poverty and the health and wellbeing of those rural residents surveyed with more of the fuel poor rural households suffering from cold related illnesses such as asthma and respiratory disease than non-fuel poor rural households. Worryingly the survey also found that most of these households have to ration their fuel in winter which could aggravate further their poor health.

Not being able to afford to heat their homes and getting into fuel debt also show up as significant issues in the study. Most rural fuel poor households responding to the surveys said that they go without other things to pay for their fuel and turn their heating down or off in winter to save money on their fuel bills. Over 60% of the rural fuel poor households that do not have a mains gas connection and using oil to heat their homes found it difficult to afford, with that figure rising to over 72% for households with children.

Graham Russell, Executive Director, Commission for Rural Communities said: “We expected to find high levels of fuel poverty in the areas we surveyed, however the depth and impact of fuel poverty in the rural communities that we targeted is concerning and shows that further investigation and solutions to tackle rural fuel poverty are needed by national and local government, delivery agencies and energy suppliers working together to address. Measures need to be put in place that take account of rural needs and circumstances.”

Graham Biggs, Chief Executive, Rural Services Network said: “We were pleased to be asked by the CRC to carry out this study and we are grateful to our member authorities in Durham, East Riding and Shropshire for their work in the three study areas. The report makes important recommendations to central and local government and major partners. Perhaps one of the most important recommendations is that the responsibilities of suppliers should include specific targets for rural delivery, without which remoter rural areas will lose out yet again, and that such schemes should recognise, in full, the costs of remedial measures in ‘hard-to-treat’ rural homes. We hope the report will influence future policy and practice the rationale for which is brought to life in the case studies included in the report.”

The report ‘Understanding the Real Depth and Impact of Fuel Poverty in Rural England’ can be downloaded from www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk or the Rural Services Network’s website www.rsnonline.org.uk where the interim report of this project and supporting information can also be found.

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