Released in response to new UK government figures on fuel poverty levels in England, the report by charities National Energy Action (NEA) and Energy Action Scotland (EAS) estimates that over 9,600 elderly people are at risk of dying throughout the coming winter months due to cold homes.
NEA and EAS are calling on all four nations’ governments to hold an urgent summit to agree where new resources can be found to stop tragic winter deaths. The new UK Fuel Poverty Monitor also provides the latest national fuel poverty statistics and an update on the key aspects of policy which impact on 4 million fuel poor households as well as the population at large.
The report warns that cold homes increase risks of heart attacks and strokes via rising blood pressure and worsen respiratory illnesses such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and asthma.
It also highlights cold homes worsen arthritic, rheumatic conditions which increase propensity to falls.
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, 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.”
The report claims there is no central government investment in UK wide energy efficiency programmes. GB-wide resources that might help meet the costs of cold related morbidity are also declining. In England currently there is still no central government investment in fuel poverty and health related schemes or energy efficiency programmes overall.
The report recommends that the new United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund and the National Productivity Investment Fund should support initiatives to meet fuel poverty commitments across the UK nations and more generally improve our unhealthy and inefficient housing stock.
It concludes there are over 12 million homes across the UK that are potentially damaging the health of their occupants and are less efficient than a modern home. Around 4 million contain households on the lowest incomes.