Fuel poverty is fast becoming a major problem across the UK. With global wholesale energy prices soaring, leading to April’s 54 per cent (£693) rise in the energy price cap, those on lower incomes are finding it increasingly hard to cope.
According to the BEIS’ 2022 annual fuel poverty statistics report, around 13 per cent of households in England (over three million) in 2020 were classed as living in fuel poverty, meaning they have been pushed into poverty because of the costs of meeting their basic need to keep warm.
Though the government has announced further help with energy bills via a windfall tax on energy companies (at the time of writing), this only serves to mitigate a further rise in the price cap this October, with many people still struggling to afford power and heat in the immediate term. One of the more vulnerable groups facing this problem is social housing tenants, a significant proportion of whom are low-income households.
Housing providers are giving as much support as they can, including increasing their crisis support funding, offering fuel vouchers, and advice for those who are finding it hard to cope, but as the cost of living crisis deepens, the challenges will become more acute.
With housing providers wanting to go much further in helping their residents, many are looking at how they can improve the capabilities of their operations and ensure their IT systems are optimal, meaning they can ramp up support before we head into the colder weather of the autumn and winter.
Better use of data
One way of maximising limited resources is the efficient collation and use of data, which is why Capita has developed a housing management system which brings the relevant datasets into a single clear and simple dashboard.
Often, information about tenants and the composition of their homes is held in silos but collating these different datasets and analysing them together can bring multiple benefits to housing providers, such as improving their ability to tackle fuel poverty.
By combining a tenant’s energy consumption data with the energy performance data of their home (something our system can do via third-party smart meter data), housing providers can gain valuable insights into that home. It might, for example, show that a tenant has high energy bills yet is living in a house categorised with an EPC rating of ‘C’ or above, making it energy efficient.
By delving deeper into the data, our software can look at the reasons behind the energy usage vs. EPC rating disparity to see whether the property is being heated properly or whether there is anything wrong structurally with the building, for example. The housing provider can then give targeted support to those tenants most at risk of fuel poverty.
Data on energy improvements to the building can also be analysed (this will become increasingly important as retrofitting scales up), right down to the light bulbs, insulation, windows and heating systems.
A more detailed picture
By bringing all this information together into one dashboard, this system can draw a much more detailed picture than before, again giving housing providers the tools to safeguard the welfare and safety of their tenants so that no one slips through the cracks.
The energy crisis is not going away and price inflation looks ever more serious. This is why we believe the power of data, coupled with the system to back it up, will give housing providers a fast, affordable and effective solution that can help them reduce the risk of fuel poverty among their tenants.
Glenn Allan is the head of product (housing) at Capita One.