Posted: Thu 7th Dec 2023

Almost half of households in Wales cannot afford to heat their homes!

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Dec 7th, 2023

Almost half of households in Wales cannot afford to heat their homes, with those on the lowest incomes paying a “poverty premium” for energy, the Senedd heard.

Sioned Williams, for Plaid Cymru, told the chamber that latest estimates show maintaining a warm home is unaffordable for 614,000 households in Wales.

The South Wales West MS raised concerns about “frightening, shameful” statistics which show that nearly 100% of low-income households are in fuel poverty.

She told the Senedd it is unacceptable that so many families are being denied their human right to live in a warm and safe home.

Ms Williams criticised the Welsh Government over delays to the Warm Homes programme, its main lever for tackling fuel poverty, which may not be up and running by winter.

She also raised concerns about the energy price cap increasing by £100 from January.

‘Defenceless’

Ms Williams said: “Fuel poverty was a problem in Wales long before the current energy and cost-of-living crisis.

“These recent crises have demonstrated how defenceless communities in Wales are when it comes to energy costs.”

North Wales MS Mark Isherwood, for the Conservatives, backed calls for ministers to implement the Warm Homes programme with urgency.

He also echoed Marie Curie’s calls for the Welsh Government to add people with 12 months or less to live to the programme’s eligibility criteria.

The North Wales MS highlighted a report, by Care & Repair Cymru, which found that older people are paying nearly 20% of their income on utilities.

Mr Isherwood told the chamber that the UK Government’s energy support package is one of the highest in Europe, according to the International Monetary Fund.

‘Poverty premium’

He said support from Westminster paid almost half of the typical family’s energy bill between October 2022 and June 2023.

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru’s shadow health minister, said about 30% of excess winter deaths can be linked to living in cold homes.

He told members that low-income households often have to pay a “poverty premium” for their energy as they are likely to be on a more expensive prepayment meter. 

Mr Gwynfor said: “It is clear that long-term solutions are needed to keep the heating on so people can be healthy and safe at home, and prevent illnesses that are linked to the cold and the resulting hospital admissions.”

‘Extortionate’

Delyth Jewell, Plaid Cymru’s deputy leader, argued that privatisation of the energy market has failed, describing it as a “ridiculous” notion.

The South Wales East MS said: “They just sell it on at an extortionate rate to citizens who are increasingly unable to pay.

“Keeping warm, keeping the lights on should never be seen as a luxury. It is a basic necessity, and our society is failing in its moral duty to protect people from harm.”

She warned that Wales has some of the least energy-efficient housing stock in Europe.

Jack Sargeant, a Labour backbencher, who represents Alyn and Deeside, described the UK’s energy market as a mess as he called for reforms.

He said: “Our energy markets and the powers given to the regulator, Ofgem, are both so ridiculously rigged to the favour of the suppliers of the energy markets.

“We protect their profitability above all else.”

The petitions committee chair told the chamber that people with dementia are at risk of being forcibly switched onto prepayment meters.

‘Bleak winter’

Jane Hutt, responding for the Welsh Government, said vulnerable and low-income households are facing a particularly bleak winter.

She told MSs that ministers are determined to protect frontline services and support those most in need despite an “extremely challenging” financial settlement from Westminster.

Ms Hutt said the Welsh Government’s discretionary assistance fund has supported more than 100,000 individuals with £15.6m in grants between April and September this year.

She added that £4.5m has been allocated to the Fuel Bank Foundation to introduce a national fuel voucher scheme for households in Wales.

The social justice minister stressed that many of the powers that can make the biggest difference lie with the UK Government.

Plaid Cymru’s motion was agreed without objection.

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