Millions of adults with pre-existing serious health conditions are spending the Christmas and New Year period in cold damp homes, according to new research.
The figures from YouGov for the Warm This Winter campaign reveal the growing depth of the energy bills crisis – especially among the most vulnerable.
18% of the population (9.02m adults) are living in cold damp homes this month, with a quarter of people with health conditions which are made worse by cold and damp unable to heat their homes to a safe standard (26%, 4.75m).
A third of those with disabilities (28%, 1.9m) live in cold damp homes.
The research also reveals that people are not just concerned about their own welfare. One in ten of the population (9%) are worried about an older relative being exposed to the health impacts of living in a cold damp home.
Almost a third (27%) were worried about the impact of fuel poverty on their local community.
And despite Government campaigns calling for people to save energy, over half (55%) believe they had already implemented energy reduction measures prior to this winter – with 15% already cutting back their energy use to the bare minimum necessary to keep safe.
Jonathan Bean from Buckinghamshire, describes his experience of fuel poverty: “It’s a daily battle for my asthmatic son and I to keep our home free of mould and damp.
“We have dehumidifiers and electric heaters running as much as we can afford to, but that still doesn’t keep the home any warmer than 12 degrees.
“We even had ice forming inside our double glazed windows during the recent cold weather.
“Our electricity bills keep going up and while others who are ‘off the gas grid’ have had extra government support, we haven’t.”
Simon Francis, Co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition which is part of the Warm This Winter campaign, commented: “As we get deeper into winter, our worst fears about rising energy bills are being realised.
“We are now a nation unable to keep itself warm, concerned for the well being of our nearest and dearest and spending a festive season suffering in cold damp homes.”
Stuart Bretherton, Energy For All Campaign Coordinator at Fuel Poverty Action, said: “The political choices of this government are quickly turning this poverty crisis into a public health crisis, which could result in an unprecedented number of deaths from cold and damp this winter.
“This is in a year that profits for energy companies have doubled or even tripled in some cases. With this money you could end deaths from fuel poverty by making sure everyone could access enough energy to meet their basic needs.”