Young man asleep on sofa with blanket and hood. Photo by Rex Pickar on Unsplash

COVID-19 restrictions are a way of life for many vulnerable people

11 June, 2020

Mari Martiskainen

Reading time: 3 minutes

Now is a good moment to spare a thought for those who have lost their jobs and incomes, or whose homes may be uncomfortable to live in…

For the last two months most of us have been locked down in our homes, restricted in travel and away from work and loved ones. This is a good moment to spare a thought for those who have lost their jobs and incomes, or whose homes may be uncomfortable to live in. Not everyone has a garden, let alone the means to cook hot meals.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK, we started FAIR, a project which examines links between fuel and transport poverty in the UK. As one of our first outputs, we have completed a briefing on which groups may be particularly vulnerable to fuel and transport poverty.

We have a long tradition of fuel poverty research in the UK, going back to Prof Brenda Boardman’s seminal work in the 1990s which showed how the combination of low incomes and poor housing often meant a struggle to pay energy bills. Research on fuel poverty has moved on to recognise that living in fuel poverty is about having adequate energy services. In other words, being able to heat a home, cook, wash clothes and use appliances. Increasingly, research has also started to examine transport poverty, whereby people cannot access the transport services they need. This could mean for example living far away from a bus stop, or not being able to afford to travel where you need to go to, be it work or school, all of which in turn have an impact on your ability to take part in society.

Although there are some differences between fuel and transport poverty in terms of who may be most at risk, we think that there are areas of overlap which need further research, especially as we move towards a net zero society. People who may be particularly at risk include black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, those on low-incomes, those who have health and/or mobility difficulties, and households with children. Fuel and transport poverty also occur in both urban and rural areas, and vary regionally across the UK. But very little is known yet of regional differences. This is why the FAIR project will conduct research in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Our initial findings into the overlapping and regional vulnerabilities will be available in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought pre-existing inequalities truly to the surface. As we rebuild a post-COVID-19 society, we must ensure that emissions from our homes and transport are reduced so that net zero means not only mitigating emissions but also addressing inequality and poverty.

Banner photo credit: Rex Pickar on Unsplash