PLAID Cymru’s Work and Pensions spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, has called on the UK Government to urgently set up a covid-19 fuel payment to “prevent what could be the worst fuel poverty crisis in a generation”
Mr Williams has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions urging her to “significantly expand the Winter Fuel Payment” to ensure that all those on low incomes can afford their energy bills this winter.
Cold homes can contribute to health problems such as hypothermia, respiratory diseases, flu as well as mental health problems, such as depression. Homes with damp or mould can cause a 30-50% increase in respiratory problems. With the added risks this year due to the pandemic, the Plaid Cymru MP has said the UK Government has a “responsibility” to “ensure people can afford to stay warm this winter”
According to the Welsh Government’s latest figures, an estimated 155,000 households, 12 per cent of all households in Wales, are fuel poor. This figure is likely to increase this year, with the average household energy bill in the UK likely to climb by £107 this winter for those working from home five days a week, according to a study by Energy Helpline.
Currently, the Winter Fuel Payment is only available to people born on or before 5 October 1954 and have lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of 21 to 27 September 2020. In the letter, Mr Williams calls to extend the Winter Fuel Payment to:
people receiving Universal Credit
disabled people who are entitled to disability benefits
families receiving Child Benefit
people earning less than 60% of the UK median pay
Hywel Williams MP said:
“We are facing a very difficult winter. The pandemic has already had a devastating impact on people’s health – both physical and mental – as well as hitting finances hard. As the winter months draws closer, it is important that the most vulnerable in our communities are prepared for the cold weather ahead. We know that cold and damp homes will put those most vulnerable to covid-19, including older people and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, at an increased risk of the virus.
The UK Government therefore has a greater responsibility than ever to ensure people can afford to stay warm this winter.
“I have called on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to significantly expand the Winter Fuel Payment this winter in order to prevent what could be the worst fuel poverty crisis in a generation. This is imperative not only to protect people’s physical health, but also their mental health and wellbeing.”