Organisations call on Government to Help Prevent Excess Winter Deaths

29th November 2014
A group of leading organisations including charities, fuel poverty groups and industry is urging the Government to take immediate action by announcing additional ‘emergency’ funding for heating and Insulation measures in the Autumn Statement on 3rd December 2014 to help reduce the thousands of vulnerable people who will die of cold related illnesses this winter.

The Government’s long awaited new Fuel Poverty Strategy and Targets are still subject to parliamentary process and will, therefore, have no impact on this winter and time is rapidly running out to take action.

Age UK recently reported that one older person will die every seven minutes from cold weather this winter and that excess winter death rates and illness are highest among those in the coldest homes. The report highlighted that nearly 1 million older people live in fuel poverty and cannot afford to heat their homes to a sufficient temperature in order to keep warm and well and called on the Government to upgrade the energy efficiency of these homes.

However, the latest Energy Company Obligation Monthly Report published by DEC on 20th November showed that the support for vulnerable households through its flagship ECO Affordable Warmth Scheme which provides free heating and insulation has plummeted. Less than 6,000 measures were installed in September 2014 compared to nearly 30,000 in September 2013. This trend is likely to continue throughout the Winter as Ofgem reported in August that the overall ECO Affordable Warmth Target to the end of March 2015 was virtually completed in June 2014.

Derek Lickorish, Chair of the Government Fuel Poverty Advisory Group speaking on behalf of the group said: “Today we are calling on Government to make additional funding available through the Autumn Statement to provide free heating and insulation measures to thousands more fuel poor and vulnerable householders.

“While energy bills have increased by 140% since 2005, incomes have risen less than 30% over the same period. The problem of fuel poverty is a very serious issue and life threatening for the elderly and for those in poor health. An estimated 18,200 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2013/14. An estimated 30% of winter deaths in Europe are caused by cold housing. By making just 1.5 million of the most inefficient fuel poor homes meet a decent standard of insulation with a modern heating system would save them over £200 million each year off their fuel bills and thereby increasing their spending power for food and other essentials.

Jenny Saunders, Chief Executive of National Energy Action said: “NEA has deep concerns over the lack of funding for heating and insulation improvements to help the most vulnerable families over the course of this winter. I urge the Chancellor to release some of the billions of pounds that have gone into the Treasury this year from taxes and levies imposed on energy consumers.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Thousands of older people face a daily battle to stay warm during winter, risking their health by keeping the heating low to avoid running up a bill they can’t afford. Increasing energy costs coupled with poorly insulated homes means the UK is fighting a losing battle against cold weather and it is very difficult for increasing numbers of people to properly protect themselves.

“The only solution to this problem is an ambitious programme to bring all our housing up to a high energy efficiency standard. We realise a national infrastructure project of this scale would require major investment; but not only would it reduce illness and deaths among older people, it would also cut associated costs to the NHS, create jobs and growth and help future generations.

“No older person should worry that they could die from the cold in their own home. Fuel poverty is a national scandal which has claimed the lives of too many people – both old and young – for far too long and left many more suffering from preventable illness. We want a permanent solution and we believe it is within our grasp, if there is the necessary imagination and political will.”

Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive, Energy Saving Trust, said: “This isn’t about short term hand-outs to get people out of trouble for one winter, fixing our leaky homes means putting an end to this most severe issue, full stop. We know that for many this is going to be a really tough winter so let’s help those in need, starting with those who need us most.”

Ed Matthew from the Energy Bill Revolution said: “Insulation of British homes have crashed this year. The solution is to make home energy efficiency the UK’s infrastructure investment priority. This can help millions of families warm their homes and create jobs in every part of the UK. No other infrastructure investment can achieve so much for so many.”

Dr Joanne Wade, Director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, said: “It is totally unacceptable that over 2 million households in the UK today are unable to afford to keep warm in their own homes and many millions more are at risk due to poor quality housing, rising energy costs and uncertain incomes. To solve the problem of fuel poverty, we need to invest in energy efficiency measures in more than half a million low-income homes every year for the next ten years. Clearly the current level of activity under ECO is nowhere near adequate: government must take immediate action to begin to remedy this.”

Neil Marshall, Chief Executive of the NIA commented: “Poorly insulated homes are a major contributor to fuel poverty and excess winter deaths and it is therefore vital that Government takes immediate action though additional funding to enable thousands more vulnerable households to receive help through home insulation this winter. Our industry stands ready to deliver these extra measures.”

Written by the NIA November 2014
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