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There are still too many people who cannot afford to keep warm. In 1996 at least 4.3 million households in England had to spend more than 10 per cent of their household income on fuel - the customary definition of 'fuel poverty'.

These households have to choose between being warm or spending on other essential items. Worse still, it is often those who are most vulnerable to ill health from cold homes - low-income householders aged 60 years or more, children, and the disabled - who find themselves in this position.

This situation is unacceptable, and the Government has acted to address the challenge posed by fuel poverty by reducing VAT on fuel, liberalising energy markets and reducing energy prices, and introducing winter fuel payments for pensioners.

But more help is needed for those in the worst difficulty, facing fuel bills of up to 1,400 a year. These households need substantial improvements to their heating and insulation to move them out of fuel poverty.

What HEES has to offer

Launched in June 2000, HEES offers more measures to help those at most risk of ill health from cold homes. These include, for the first time, heating as well as insulation improvements.

The improved scheme has two levels:

1) Grants of up to 1,000 for a range of heating improvements and insulation measures, including loft and cavity wall insulation and draught proofing, are available to:

households in receipt of an income related benefit
households who receive a disability benefit.

2) Grants of up to 2,000 are available to households who are over 60 and receive an income-related benefit. This is to provide both insulation measures and, where appropriate, high efficiency central heating systems for the main living areas.

For over 60's who live in a Home Office designated high crime areas may be able to have security measures - door and window locks - provided from a separate Home Office grant. For more details go to

HEES is targeted at owner-occupiers and householders in the private rented sectors, who represent nearly 70 per cent of the households classified as fuel poor. It will provide nearly half a million households with warmer, healthier homes in the next two years alone.

The Government has allocated an additional 3.9 billion resources to local authority and other social landlords to speed up the repair and improvement of social sector properties, including improved heating and insulation.

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