Thousands of vulnerable people throughout Britain are at risk of dying in their own homes due to cold and fuel poverty this coming winter, charities have warned today.
In response to new official Government figures released today on fuel poverty levels in England, showing that four million households are now living in fuel poverty, a new report from National Energy Action (NEA) and Energy Action Scotland (EAS) warns that over 9,600 frail and vulnerable people across the UK are at risk of dying this winter due to cold and poorly heated homes.
The shocking figure is the equivalent of 80 people a day losing their lives because of cold homes and the many medical complications this can cause. Both the NEA and EAS are calling on all four nations’ of the UK to hold an urgent summit to work to resolve the growing crisis of fuel poverty.
Living in a cold home increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke due to high blood pressure, and respiratory illnesses such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and asthma. It could also worsen arthritic and rheumatic conditions.
Peter Smith, Director of Policy and Research at NEA, said: “We know cold, damp conditions have the worst impact for the most vulnerable members of our society and across the UK sadly we think they kill up to 80 people per day in the winter months. This is not acceptable in the fifth largest economy in the world.
“Cold homes also cause untold havoc to our national health services. This costs us all as taxpayers well over £1 billion a year as well as increasingly long queues to see GPs, get treated at Accident and Emergency or hampers efforts to discharge vulnerable patients out of hospital.
“We are calling for a joint ministerial summit on health and fuel poverty with representatives from across all four nations’ governments. Now is a crucial time to review the key priorities across all UK nations for the coming winter and beyond.”
Norman Kerr OBE, Director of Energy Action Scotland (EAS), added: “Encouragingly the links between cold homes and health are being acted upon across the UK and are already shaping local and national delivery.
“Many organisations are already providing leadership and good practice examples of preventative action. The Scottish Government needs to work in partnership to maintain this momentum and should create formal links between fuel poverty, energy efficiency delivery and the health sector, including building on the Scottish Public Health Network guidance and this should feature in the new fuel poverty strategy”.
Carole Morgan-Jones, Director of NEA Cymru, said: “We hope our recommendations will help put an end to ill health and deaths caused by the cold homes crisis in Wales. It is clear to me and our supporters more can be done to transpose a clear blueprint for action consistently at a UK, national and local level.
“In Wales we also want to see the new Public Service Boards for every local authority area outline how they intend to address cold homes and fuel poverty in their first Local Well-being Plans next year”.
Pat Austin Director of NEA NI who chairs the Northern Ireland Fuel Poverty Coalition, added: “In Northern Ireland, health must play an upfront and central role in the new Outcome Based Programme for Government and this will require close alignment with the proposed action for a new Fuel Poverty Strategy.
“More can also be done to improve targeting, tailored advice and referrals to the health related fuel poverty schemes. The new UK wide Digital Economy Act should be adopted for all relevant Northern Ireland fuel poverty schemes.
“We also need a watching brief on home heating oil prices. In Northern Ireland home heating oil is the main fuel source with 68% of households reliant on this unregulated fuel to heat their homes. In January 2016 the price of oil was at an all-time low, but since then the price has increased by almost 50%.”