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Background – fuel poverty and health

Fuel poverty is the inability to keep warm in your own home. This can be down to low incomes, high costs because you can’t afford the heating bills and or/ because your heating system is inadequate and you don’t have the money to sort it out. Poor housing‚ low incomes and a need for more heat than usual combine to cause fuel poverty. A fuel poor household is one which needs to spend more than 10% of its income on all fuel use and to heat its home to an adequate standard of warmth.

Fuel poverty is growing and deepening. Over the last ten years‚ average domestic electricity and gas bills increased by over 50% and 40% respectively. Increasing energy prices and housing costs are bad news for everyone‚ but affects those in fuel poverty the most. In 2019 more than 404,000 households in London can’t afford to heat their homes properly. This fuel poverty leads to poor thermal comfort and deepens health inequalities. It can even lead to death. There were 2880 recorded Excess winter deaths (excluding COVID -19) in London in 2019/20. Many of these preventable deaths can be linked to people living in a cold home.

The SHINE network comprises of partners across the public sector (e.g. NHS, London Fire Brigade, Local Authorities), charity sector (e.g. London Cares, Shelter, Trussell Trust, Red Cross) and private sector (e.g. Energy Companies, water suppliers, Distribution Network Operators). Our partners help to identify households who are struggling to heat their homes and therefore at risk of fuel poverty as well as offering interventions and referral routes for existing SHINE clients (e.g. fire safety checks, befriending services, utility bill discounts and support in power cuts).

Telephone based energy advice

  • All callers undergo a SHINE assessment to see what services they would be eligible and suitable for:
  • The SHINE hub is operated by trained Energy Advisors who provide advice on energy saving, billing and metering, heating systems and controls
  • The SHINE hub can compare all the suppliers and tariffs on the market to find out if a household could save money with another supplier or tariff
  • When available, the SHINE hub assess and refer for electricity and water discounts, heating and insulation grants to improve household efficiency and refer households with additional needs to supplier and power network to Priority Service Registers
  • The SHINE hub make onward referrals into a network of partners whose services keep Londoners well and warm. This may include airTEXT alerts, befriending services, benefit checks, fire safety checks, handyperson services, housing support, Occupational Therapy, falls and telecare teams, Stop Smoking Service and/or Taxicard assessments.

Supplier discounts and extra care services

  • Thames Water offers half price or capped water bills for vulnerable clients. The SHINE hub can assess and refer into this discount scheme.
  • UK Power Networks’ Priority Services Register keeps households safe during a powercut. If a household relies on electrical medical equipment or has any other needs which make them a vulnerable in a powercut, the SHINE hub will add them to the register for extra support.
  • The majority of gas, electric and water suppliers have Priority Service Registers and offer tailored support to customers with additional needs; provision varies by supplier and may include large print or talking bills for those with visual impairments, password systems and named representatives for vulnerable customers, supported meter reads for those with limited mobility.

‘Energy Doctor’ home visits

Our Energy Doctors focus on physical and behavioural changes which can reduce energy usage and costs. The Energy Doctor can review energy bills, check heating controls, contact suppliers and fit energy efficient measures. The measures which are may be provided as part of the home visit are as follows:

  • Draught proofing doors and windows
  • Reflective radiator panels
  • LED light bulbs
  • Standby saver devices
  • Secondary glazing film
  • Hot water tank jackets
  • Electricity use monitors
  • Thermometer cards
  • Chimney balloons

Fuel debt support

The SHINE hub offer support to clients in arrears with their gas or electricity supplier. Advice and support varies on a case by case basis but tends to cover:

  • Investigating usage, submitting meter reads and clarifying actual amount owing
  • Checking clients are on cheapest possible tariff with their supplier
  • Practical support to help clients liaise with their supplier where appropriate
  • Negotiating repayment plans and methods
  • Reviewing the rights and obligations relevant to the case
  • Applications to grants for assistance clearing debt where appropriate
  • Onward referrals for support with other debts and income maximisation‚ e.g. benefits checks