THOUSANDS of people across Gwent are struggling to keep their homes warm and pay heating bills.

The scale of so-called 'fuel poverty' has been laid bare as the UK experiences soaring inflation to its highest level for nearly 30 years, prompting warnings of a cost-of-living crisis.

Figures in a draft report on public wellbeing in Gwent show that 23,000 households – the equivalent of around one in 10 homes across the region – are in fuel poverty, driven in part by rising energy prices.

For people in low-income households, fuel poverty is a Catch-22 situation: Not only do residents spend a disproportionate amount of their income on heating, but people living in poorly insulated and poorly heated homes may also have to pay for more energy to warm their homes up.

The new draft of this year's Gwent Well-being Assessment, which councillors in Newport are considering this week, warns that fuel poverty is a "challenging" issue to tackle.

Ironically, the report notes that climate change may lead to milder winters and, therefore, less fuel poverty – but the housing stock in Gwent "has poor thermal efficiency and will be challenging to retrofit".

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Fuel costs jumped last year when regulator Ofgem raised the price cap on energy bills in October, allowing providers to charge customers more money. At the time, Ofgem blamed the "difficult decision" on higher wholesale prices, which energy firms were unable to bear alone.

Energy is not the only sector of the economy that the pandemic has struck. Global supply chains have generally come under strain, due to a rise in demand for goods and the disruption the lockdowns have caused to workforces.

This has led to prices rising, particularly for raw materials and further down the supply chain, causing prices for essentials – like food – to grow and grow.

But the biggest hit to consumer pockets continues to be the rises in energy bills, and wholesale gas prices skyrocketed by about 500 per cent in 2021.

Experts are now warning that fuel poverty could become an even greater issue in the next few months. The energy price cap is due for another revision in February, and there are predictions prices could leap more than 50 per cent in these costs when that revision takes effect in April.

This month, an alliance of prominent charities warned that a rise in fuel poverty would force people into having to choose between heating and eating, as well as an increase in the number of people dying in cold homes.

And ahead of a debate in the Senedd on the subject on Wednesday, Plaid Cymru warned that "this crisis is not just looming – it’s already landed for too many Welsh households".