Call to deliver warm homes after winter deaths reach 15 year high

Cold-homeCharity groups have called on Scotland’s political parties to commit to “end the scourge of cold, energy-wasting, hard-to-heat homes” after new figures revealed that winter deaths in Scotland have reached their highest level for 15 years.

The call by RCN Scotland, Age Scotland, and WWF Scotland follows the publication of official statistics showing that there were 22,011 deaths registered in the four months between December 2014 and March 2015.

The number is up from 18,675 the previous season and the highest since the winter of 1999/00, when there was a high level of flu activity.

National charity Energy Action Scotland urged the Scottish Government to set out a detailed plan to ensure that no-one in Scotland has to live in a cold, damp, expensive to heat home.

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 places a statutory duty on the Scottish Government to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that people are not living in fuel poverty in Scotland by November 2016. But with fuel poverty levels on the up, and the target date just one year away, many believe the target will be missed.

Campaigners like Energy Action Scotland want Scottish Ministers to open discussions now about how they can realistically meet their target.

Norman Kerr, director of Energy Action Scotland, said the fact that 4,060 people died needlessly in the last winter in Scotland, often due to cold-related causes, underlines the need for increased action on fuel poverty.

He said: “The huge rise in the number of excess winter deaths in Scotland stresses the fact that much more needs to be done to end the blight of cold, damp homes that people can’t afford to heat.

“There are a lot of people who have experience of living in fuel poverty. There are a number who are already delivering solutions to the problem. All want to know what the Scottish Government’s strategy is.

“We urge the Scottish Government to set out now what needs to be done to move forward towards the goal of eradicating cold homes in Scotland.

“In Challenge Poverty Week, we are encouraging government at all levels to increase the priority they give to making the energy we use to heat and power our homes affordable.”

Last week, an alliance of over 50 civic organisations called on the Scottish Government to end cold homes in Scotland by 2025, by improving the energy efficiency of homes.

Commenting on the new statistics, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland’s director Theresa Fyffe said: “It’s indefensible that cold, hard-to-heat homes continue to leave the most vulnerable in our society at the mercy of cold weather each winter. Nurses are on the frontline of caring for patients and are all too familiar with the stories behind these winter mortality statistics. Ending cold homes and cutting fuel bills through improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes should be a priority for political parties coming in to next year’s Scottish Parliament election.”

Age Scotland’s Greg McCracken said: “The poor condition of Scotland’s existing housing stock means much of the energy which older people use trying to stay warm will be lost, something many can ill-afford. That’s why a comprehensive and long-term approach to ridding Scotland of cold and draughty homes is critical if we are to ensure figures like these are consigned to the history books.”

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks added: “Despite our Nordic neighbours having even chillier climates, their better quality housing means that they have less of a problem with increased winter mortality. Improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes would make a significant contribution to reducing the number of vulnerable people who die each winter from the effects of cold homes.

“In addition to improving public health, insulating all homes to a ‘C’ standard would also create up to 9,000 jobs a year, cut fuel bills and help tackle climate emissions. We urge all the political parties to commit to eliminating the scourge of cold, energy-wasting, hard-to-heat homes in Scotland.”

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