Fuel poverty - the hidden national scandal It is a national scandal that 26,000 people a year die in the UK because they can’t afford to heat their homes. Hubbub has undertaken research in three different parts of the country to gain a deeper understanding of the daily realities of people facing this hardship. Over the next month we are sharing our findings with key local stakeholders in each area. The first event was with Dan Rogerson MP and key agencies covering his North Cornwall constituency. The conversation focussed on three things. 1) How can the financial support that is available best reach those most in need? Identifying households most at risk is complex and needs local knowledge and resource. The majority of the financial support available sits with the big six energy companies who are far removed from daily realities of struggling communities. The meeting highlighted the potential to create a network of Food Banks Plus who could provide households with energy support as well as food. There is a close connection between heating and eating so Food Banks could be a natural place to provide additional support to those most in need. The opportunity to create local Energy Banks was also explored. This would be a bank of easily accessible funding to which trusted local bodies such as Citizens Advice could have instant access providing emergency support where it is most needed. 2) The power of social networks Cornwall is a large rural area with people living in small communities. Travel is difficult and costly. One way people are seeking to cope with energy bills is through self-help Facebook groups. Creating more of these groups could be a way of helping overcome isolation and give people more control over their bills. Setting up these groups would be quick and low cost and is something to explore. 3) Policy changes Many people on low incomes choose pre-paid meters as this gives them more control protecting them from the shock of large bills, But these pre-paid tariffs are the most expensive meaning the least able are paying the most for their energy. This needs to change. Households living off-grid do not have the same protection as those living on-grid - a major issue in Cornwall and this is another anomaly that needs addressing. Finally there is a ‘hidden’ population living in mobile or park homes who are vulnerable to high energy costs and policy needs to help provide them with protection. It was a stimulating debate and one we hope will be replicated in the constituencies of Caroline Flint MP and Laura Sandys MP. We will be using the results as part of the launch of our Home Hub seeking to build new coalitions and activities that improve people's lives.