Young people suffering fuel poverty, says new research

| 12th July 2012
Cold hands warming on a gas heater
More students than ever are living under the fuel poverty line.
It’s a problem more usually associated with pensioners but according to new research fuel poverty has become an issue amongst younger people – particularly students - too.

The new report, entitled 'Significant invisibles: Energy vulnerability among young urban adults' is authored by Birmingham University research scientist, Dr Saska Petrova, who is based at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences where her special interest is in community transitions as they relate to natural resource management, energy consumption, social justice and governance.

The UK Fuel Poverty Strategy 2001 defines fuel poverty as where households have to spend more than 10 per cent of their income before housing costs on heating their homes to an acceptable level - defined, in turn, by the World Health Organisation, (WHO), as 18-21 degrees Celcius which it states is the range needed to create a healthy indoor temperature.

Because it is older people, plus those affected by disability or illness who have been more commonly thought to be affected, all the government initiatives aimed at eliminating fuel poverty have been targeted at these groups and not younger people.

But Dr Petrova’s report - based on a study of young people living in the Birmingham district of Bournbrook and presented to the Royal Geographical Society earlier this month – found a large proportion of flat-sharers, particularly students, living in fuel poverty in poor quality and inefficient housing.

“This group represents a part of society that is invisible to fuel poverty assistance,” she reported. “Many of them do not even realise they are experiencing fuel poverty even when they are suffering from inadequate warmth.”

Dr Petrova added that the situation is exacerbated by the widespread cultural expectation that it is acceptable for younger people to live in poorly-heated and low quality housing and said both landlords and universities need to take a more active role in helping to eliminate fuel poverty for students.

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