Claire’s story and the scandal of fuel poverty in Kent
“I worried about her especially as winter was setting in. She wasn’t here for the books but the warmth .” says Julia a librarian in Kent (not her real name).
Claire often visited the library, seeking warmth by staying in public buildings, including the town library:
”Take a newspaper, wear a smile and become a wallflower, that way most people will just leave you alone.” (Claire)
Claire isn’t homeless and despite receiving a state pension, finding warmth was what occupied the majority of her day. Julia observed her routine for several years, dismissing her building-hopping as harmless eccentricity – she now know’s better. Claire was cold, especially at home.
A household is in ‘fuel poverty’ if paying for its energy costs would push it below the poverty line in terms of remaining income. Claire was one of Kent’s 57,500 households classed as fuel poor.
In 2018, the highest levels of fuel poverty in Kent were in Thanet (10.7%) and Folkestone and Hythe (10.2%). The lowest levels of fuel poverty were in Dartford (6.8%) and Tonbridge & Malling (7.3%) and
Sevenoaks (7.3%), according to the latest published data by the Dept of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, on the 30 April 2020.
Compared to 2012 data, the number of Kent households in fuel poverty has risen 10%. These values are higher than the average for the South East which has risen only 9% since 2012.
Claire uses a mobility scooter as she suffers from chronic respiratory problems; she needs several inhalers. She wears many layers that visibly weigh down her diminutive frame, yet this is essential getup for her.
The Kent & Medway Energy and Low Emissions Strategy identified these as Kent’s fuel poverty risk factors:
housing with poor energy efficiency
I have every sympathy with the subject of this article. Note that EPCs are notoriously inaccurate. A major update to the software that generates the EPC is also overdue.
See for example: https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US201900182350
Whilst fuel poverty is a very real issue, my experience tells me that fuel poverty statistics tend to show the worst-case scenario rather than the average situation.
Regularly checking your energy tariff is really important, and if you have never switched supplier it is well worth checking and the reduction in costs can be significant.