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Thousands suffer cold in South Yorkshire, as fuel poverty crisis strikes

Malcolm Farrow
Malcolm Farrow

Almost 70,000 households across South Yorkshire face a cold, miserable winter as they cannot afford to keep warm.

There are 69,548 households living in fuel poverty, according to a new government report which reveals the extent of the crisis facing the county.

Latest statistics show 12 per cent of homes in South Yorkshire are classed as ‘fuel poor’ which means they cannot afford to adequately heat their home based on their income.

The national figure has risen to over 2.55 million homes in fuel poverty over the last year.

Rural parts of the county have higher levels of fuel poverty compared to more urban areas, with the gap between the cost of bills and what they can afford to pay being significantly higher at over £600, double that for urban areas.

This is despite oil heating, one of the main fuels used by rural homes, being significantly cheaper than other forms of heating for homes not connected to mains gas.

The higher cost of heating is largely due to rural homes being older, poorly insulated and less energy efficient.

In response to growing concern, OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, has written to local MPs saying that more support is needed for rural households, especially after last winter’s extreme chill.

Malcolm Farrow, of OFTEC, said: “We often take our heating for granted and turn up the thermostat without a second’s thought.

“Unfortunately, as this latest report reveals, for many households across South Yorkshire keeping warm is a constant source of concern and often anxiety.

“Many health problems are associated with living in a cold house and there is a particular concern for older people who struggle during winter months. Whilst steps have been taken to try to alleviate the problem, not enough support is available.”

The report also highlighted the importance of energy efficiency. Homes with better insulation and a modern boiler require less energy and are far quicker to heat which can help reduce fuel bills.

Malcolm added: “Rural households typically have a far lower energy efficiency rating compared to urban homes, so the current focus needs to be on cost effective solutions such as better insulation and helping them upgrade to a modern and more effective heating system, for instance moving from electric storage heaters to oil central heating which is over 40 per cent cheaper to run.

“This will have an immediate positive impact on many fuel poor homes.

“We should, however, recognise that, even with government support, the cost of upgrading a boiler is still out of reach for many.

“Households can reduce fuel bills in ways such as adjusting heating timers as the weather changes, bleeding radiators and having their heating system regularly serviced and inspected by a qualified GasSafe (for mains gas) or OFTEC (for oil or solid fuel) registered technician.”

More information and advice can be found at www.oftec.org.