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Fuel poverty battle to include equity release?

18 July 2011

Many older people are living in fuel poverty, as they are unable to find enough money to heat their homes to an acceptable level.

Equity release schemes could prove to be an attractive option for homeowners aged between 55 and 95, as they allow people to free up funds while remaining in the same house.

Dave Timms, UK climate and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth, stated it is a "disgrace" some individuals are unable to afford to heat their homes and called on the government to put more money into solving the issue of fuel poverty.

Writing in the Guardian, he explained the state has already delayed a decision to implement a minimum energy efficiency standard for rented homes until 2018.

Mr Timms said: "The fact that ending this scandal brings multiple environmental, health and economic benefits makes the failure of successive governments to tackle fuel poverty even more incomprehensible."

He added the government must accept its responsibility for the problem and step up levels of investment as a result.

The campaigner called for more "ambition" to be shown in the fight against fuel poverty, as this will be needed if the aim of eradicating the issue by 2016 is to be met.

He said: "The government has to accept that a proportion of the cost of decarbonising the housing stock must be paid for out of the Treasury's coffers."

Mr Timms also cited a study carried out by Consumer Focus that estimated the price of lifting UK households out of fuel poverty to be as high as £24 billion.

However, since the report was published, it is believed twice as many people are now being affected by the issue, sending this estimate rocketing.

The campaigner's comments come shortly after the publication of figures by the Department for Energy and Climate Change which show in 2009, fuel poverty was affecting 5.5 million households in the UK, a rise of one million on the previous year.

However, Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, immediately criticised the report, pointing out the numbers are now out of date.

She estimates that as many as 6.3 million households are now affected by fuel poverty, with household energy bills rising by "an eye-watering £472, or 71 per cent, in just over five years".

This could lead to more homeowners aged between 55 and 95 looking into the equity release calculator from Key to see if the product is the right choice.