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Last Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007, 18:52 GMT
Have Your Say: Fuel poverty
Gas ring

The government has pledged to take vulnerable households out of fuel poverty by 2010.

But new research suggests the government may fail to meet its targets.

Fuel poverty is defined as a household having to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel bills to heat the home to an acceptable level.

We asked for your comments - a selection of which are below.

My mum, dad and nan all get the fuel allowance, yet they all have more disposable cash than my family. We have a child with a life threatening disease and get no help with our fuel bills. This allowance needs to be means tested and the government needs to give bigger grants for installing greener fuel, that way, everyone can benefit from the money one way or another.
Caroline M, Dorchester

Fuel poverty affects too many people and leads to serious illness and winter deaths
Ian, Liverpool
The grant system is flawed. To obtain a grant towards heating and insulation - you have to be on certain qualifying benefits. Yes, whilst this does give a certain indication of the likelihood that the applicant is in need of support - it instantly excludes over 60s who may have a very small occupational pension or state pension only - and excludes young families whom are earning a very small income, but just a little too much to get benefits. Fuel poverty affects too many people and leads to serious illness and winter deaths (over 30,000 p/a on average). We need to stop arguing about grant criteria and make help freely available to anyone who is at risk of being cold in their home because it is unheated and un-insulated.
Ian, Liverpool

Take the utility companies back. They should be non-profit organizations. Water, gas, electric should be provided to every citizen at cost. These are essentials, people young or old should not have to rob Peter to pay Paul to keep warm, drink and have light. The US has unwritten policies to turn a blind eye to the have-nots under the guise of capitalism. And that is exactly what the utility companies are doing in this country.
Haddanuff, London

I have been a pensioner for six years, but don't find energy costs a problem
John Wells, Bristol
I sympathise with elderly people living in old, poorly insulated houses. There is certainly not a lot of help out there for them. However, I have been a pensioner for six years, but don't find energy costs a problem, despite the price hikes. Because I have a reasonable amount of savings and investments built up out of earned income over many years, I would not be entitled to any benefits. I have foregone a lot of luxuries over the years to be in this position.
John Wells, Bristol

I am one of the unfortunates who pays more than 10% of my income on fuel, despite double glazing, loft and wall insulation, all lights bulbs economy types. The government is ignoring the fact that pensions do not meet the extra costs. Brown as prime minister? I shudder at the thought as well as the cold, he is as much to blame for pensioner poverty as the previous Tory administration.
Bryan Jones, Abergavenny

The government wrings its hands as though it is powerless - it is not. Simply link the winter fuel allowance to energy prices so that it rises as fuel prices rise (and falls as they fall). In the 21st Century it is a scandal that we have not yet found a way to ensure that the vulnerable are assured of the basics: food, warm housing and healthcare.
Tom, Herts

The government can find billions of pounds for an illegal war, yet the elderly of this country are forced to go without food to keep warm? What sort of legacy is that Blair?
William Fletcher, Southampton

Of course it doesn't help when you have a single pensioner living in a large three or four bedroomed house. If their energy bills are as big as everyone else's, it's because they are living in big family sized houses. My mother-in-law lives in a lovely two bed bungalow and the winter fuel allowance goes a long way to meet her bills.
Dave, Loughborough

We might consider providing to every household cheap fuel sufficient to heat, say, three rooms. We then reclaim that subsidy back via higher prices from every household using more than that amount of energy. This will ensure that no careful family freezes. The plan might best be administered through the handful of electricity suppliers as theirs is the one fuel that enters practically every home. No government agency needs to be involved, nor any tax payers' money. An order by government is all that is necessary. At the moment tariffs are such that fuel becomes cheaper with quantity; this plan reverses that and so I call it the Reverse Electricity Tariff Heating Scheme or RETHS. If RETHS is used carefully it could so penalise high/wasteful energy usage as to dramatically reduce both, to the benefit of ecology and economy.
Tim Flinn, Garvald

Long term - develop clothes with built-in warming
J Tarr, Plymouth
Short term - a tax on all incomes above 250,000 to pay for subsidised heating for all disabled and elderly people. Long term - develop clothes with built-in warming. It needs much less energy to keep the body warm than to keep a whole room warm. Fanciful? No, the technology exists now.
J Tarr, Plymouth

Fuel bills of 1,100 for pensioners ? Is that the biggest worry? At least for that amount they're getting an actual product and service. Council tax of 900+ - for what, empty your bins and a few street lights. The actual biggest worry for pensioners is the council tax. Don't pay and you go to jail. Not like the fuel bills (county court action only).
Alun, Carmarthen

Everybody needs to be warm. But a householder of any age who is burning 1,100 worth of fuel is contributing to global warming. We should not see the problem as pensioners lacking money, so much as badly insulated houses with inefficient heating systems. I would replace the Winter Fuel Payment with more grants for insulation.
Ian Slater, Stafford

At the next general election every pensioner should get out and vote their sitting MP out of office. We are the fourth richest economy in the world and pensioners are treated like second class citizens. No worry for MPs with their fat cat pensions and massive housing expenses. MPs are selfish people and look after their own interests - what they need is a good kick up the backside. Just get out at the next election and stop them enjoying their self voted benefits.
Derek, Whitstable

Many people in fuel poverty do not have a computer and hence do not use websites like uSwitch. However, one can still switch supplier and save money without a computer. Just ask Energywatch for its latest quarterly report on prices and quality of service and follow the advice shown.
Chris Grey, Guildford

Many who have pensions just over the benefits ceiling are really struggling financially
Frances Henderson, Oxford
I hope that allowances to help with fuel costs will not be linked to benefits. Many who have pensions just over the benefits ceiling are really struggling financially in this as in other ways.
Frances Henderson, Oxford

The energy companies make a lot of profit. Why not give poor pensioners free energy, rather than award themselves fat salaries or make their shareholders happier? Why should it be the responsibility of the government to give more handouts - that will only raise our taxes more.
Anthony Price, Cardiff

Huw, perhaps you'd like to receive 85 pounds a week (That's under 4,500 a year)! You can turn down your heating to save the planet, these poor older citizens can't even afford to heat their homes to be even vaguely warm thanks to this government's refusal to discount council tax (up 85%) and failure to increase the fuel allowance. The pensioners of 80 years old and more saved this country from dictatorships whilst earning 2 a week! They don't have massive savings: I bet you earn more than many ever did. Pensioners deserve a fair deal.
Pam Nassau, London

Yes, fuel bill payments to pensioners should be means tested. As a retiree I do not need the fuel payment. If it was means tested thousands more needy pensioners could have an increase. However, this government would then take away other benefits, so placing the deserving pensioners back in the same position as before.
Phil , Sutton, Surrey

Means testing has to be carried out to obtain council tax benefit etc. It only involves letters, not snoopers. I don't see any indignity in it, only practicality. Perhaps if the winter fuel allowance was diverted from those who don't need it to those that do, it would be fairer.
Peter, Garstang

Just give all pensioners a more generous pension - say 150 per week
Greg, Ipswich
Heating costs should not be looked at in isolation, rather the issue of pensioner income should be. Means testing costs more to administer than it actually pays out. Just give all pensioners a more generous pension - say 150 per week. The whole idea that someone should get more if they have less is insulting to a pensioner and quite frankly obscene anyway. The level of State Pension could then be slowly brought back down to a more reasonable level of the years - people in their 30s and below are young enough to be aware of this and make their own provision. But the current crop of pensioners lived through some tough times to say the least and they deserve better.
Greg, Ipswich

Why does the government wait until pensioners are 75 for extra money and free TV licences? We have to shop at the same shops, also still have to pay Council Tax. What changes at 75? We cannot go to work to get extra money, if we try we get taxed again!
Mary Eaves, Coventry

I regularly visit elderly people during the course of my job as a utilities meter reader and while not denying that a lot of them are struggling to meet their fuel bills I should point out that during November and December a good majority of them admitted that they were using their winter fuel allowance to buy Christmas presents. A lot of people look on it as some kind of windfall and spend it on their grandchildren, then come January they are pleading poverty saying that they have no money left for their fuel bills. I used to have sympathy for OAPs during winter but since meeting more pensioners than I used to my sympathies have changed.
Derek Cole, Glenrothes

There are others who are in desperate need of a winder fuel allowance. I believe it should go to all those who are in receipt of the High (and perhaps Middle) rate Care component of Disability Living Allowance, regardless of age. There are families with severely disabled children or younger adults with disabilities who also need warmth all day - and maybe warm baths to relieve pain or other conditions who have likewise been badly hit by the fuel increases.
Lesley, Wirral

For those that have mentioned why should only the elderly and pensioners receive fuel payments. They have paid their tax contributions throughout their lives and now deserve to be treated with a little respect in old age. This is something that people these days obviously don't believe in. Disabled people receive help, there is a difference between unemployed and unemployable. The majority of unemployed people in the UK could get a job if they really wanted one.
Phil Caldwell, London

It is a disgrace in itself that any government should "pledge" to keep its subjects warm in three years time, what about now?
Paul Anderton, Valrico, Florida

Will somebody please explain why we pay VAT on electricity and gas?
Alison Kane, Bournemouth

Is it not time the over 65s stopped being treated as a homogeneous group - all poor, all confused, and all vulnerable
Peggy Thompson, Warwick
Yet again because I am a "pensioner" it is assumed I am poor and need yet again another government handout totally unrelated to my income or my ability to work if I need more money. Is it not time the over 65s stopped being treated as a homogeneous group - all poor, all confused, and all vulnerable?
Peggy Thompson, Warwick

I regularly receive leaflets urging me to apply for government grants towards the cost of a new boiler, insulation and so on. Of the three companies listed as contracted to carry out work in my area two never replied, one stated a long waiting list but would be in touch. I have applied twice, but have now given up. At age 70 life is too short.
Mrs A Brilli

I note one comment saying that pensioners should be means-tested for fuel supplements. That is only fair if the energy suppliers are also means-tested to ensure the energy prices are as low as possible.
Mike, Nuneaton

Our energy use is caught between a hammer and an anvil: oil/gas depletion on the one hand, and climate change on the other. This is a problem which society as a whole will have to face sooner or later, manifesting first (as you would expect) among the more vulnerable. The problem calls for a fundamental re-think of how society functions and how energy is produced, not simply the palliative of higher winter fuel allowances for the elderly.
Huw Thomas, Llandeilo

As the population ages, the government will have to make more provision for the elderly in all areas of life
M Spurr, Northwich
They should build more villages for the over 60s with affordable property which is insulted to the highest degree. The village should have its own central heating system run by recycled rubbish. There could be a medical centre, shop, club and a bus service. As the population ages, the government will have to make more provision for the elderly in all areas of life.
M Spurr, Northwich

I live in a rural area that cannot be served by mains gas. As a result, properties must use oil tanks or LPG. Customers are treated as captive by the providers. I use an LPG tank that was installed by the previous owner. I must pay a quarterly charge for the tank and prices go up on a regular basis. To change provider I must pay to remove the tank and then pay again to install a new one, so the power to switch is virtually non existent. Prices are set high and remain so!
Frances Robinson, Cheadle, Staffordshire

Winter Fuel Allowance: Why only the elderly, as many pensioners still work and earn good money. What about the unemployed and disabled - are they not vulnerable too?
Chris Coates, London

Another enraged listener. Do the energy companies seriously not understand the difficulties older people often face in making their way through the so-called "choice" of changing suppliers. The actual procedures involved in changing energy accounts caused my parents such distress that we changed them back to their original suppliers. And as for means-tested benefits, my parents would not touch them with a barge pole. It remained an indignity to them and one which their pride prevented their claiming.
Jane Rubidge, Coventry

The winter fuel allowance should be means-tested. A wealthy pensioner receives the payment but a low income young family with little disposable income receives nothing.
Peter, Leeds

What about those under 60 who are disabled and on income support? There is no help from the government in terms of a Winter Fuel Payment towards fuel bills for us! Many people assume that we get the same help as pensioners for fuel bills but we have been left out in the cold - literally!
Sara Silvestri, Aberdeenshire

I live in fuel poverty, but it doesn't sound like I'll get any money to relieve it. I get incapacity benefit and my benefit is a massive 5 more than income support and disability premium so I don't automatically qualify for many of the fringe benefits.

Many churches have senior citizens' groups, and I feel that it would be a good idea if those churches made sure that those senior citizen members knew about all the government benefits available, such as, grants for loft insulation, cavity wall filling and double glazing. Also, how to go about getting the cheapest energy bills. Many senior citizens don't have computers and so are not able to go on uSwitch or similar sites.
Philip Stone, Shewsbury

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

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