Millions Of British Homes 'In Fuel Poverty'
The number of British households living in fuel poverty now stands at almost 4.5 million, according to a new report.
The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor said the cost of those households meeting their above average fuel bills would put them below the breadline.
The two charities behind the report also accused Westminster of not doing enough to tackle the crisis.
National Energy Action (NEA) and Energy Action Scotland (EAS) found huge variations in the amount of money spent on improving energy efficiency for low-income households.
On average, just £3.52 is invested per electricity customer in England, compared with £36.48 in Scotland, £31.31 in Wales and £27.55 in Northern Ireland, they claimed.
The charities said the VAT from energy bills could be used to bring homes occupied by low-income families up to the standard of new builds.
NEA chief executive Jenny Saunders said: "The only sustainable way to tackle this problem is to invest in our old and cold housing stock.
"Additional resources must be made available to improve the heating and insulation of our poorest households."
The report, released to coincide with national Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, comes after the energy watchdog confirmed a competition inquiry into the household supply market - a move that could lead to the so-called Big Six firms being broken up.
Ofgem accused suppliers of "consistently setting higher prices for consumers who have not switched".
Adam Scorer, director of Consumer Futures, said millions of households are "desperate" for a Government-wide strategy to tackle fuel poverty.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said it would set out its long-term commitment to tackling fuel poverty in the spring.
"The Government is doing everything within its power to help hard-pressed families keep their energy bills down," he added.