Social Security Policy and Fuel Costs
Jonathan Bradshaw and Sandra Hutton
Efforts to mitigate the impact of fuel poverty in the U.K. have concentrated on providing cash benefits through the social security system. This paper reviews evidence that these benefits may not be effective and argues that a better way to help low income households is to enable them to improve the efficiency of their use of fuel by targeted conservation measures.
For over 10 years policy makers in the U.K. have been searching for an appropriate means of mitigating the impact of rising fuel costs on low income households. A number of different policies have been tried: prices have been subsidized; tariffs have been tilted; fuel charges have been discounted for certain groups; additional payments have been introduced into the social security system; and efforts made to improve the energy efficiency of low-income households. These policies have been typically ad hoc, incremental, without clear objectives, and introduced as a result of short term political concerns. Bradshaw and Harris ( 1983) have reviewed some of this history. There is now an increasingly prevalent view that present policies are misguided. In particular, efforts to mitigate the impact of fuel costs through social security policy are costing huge