Scotland’s over 60s ‘at risk from home electrics’

Cold-homeScotland’s ageing population is at increasing electrical danger with almost 80 per cent of homes in disrepair, according to a new report.

Electrical Safety First said that while the vast majority of older people in Scotland want to stay in their own homes, unsafe electrics can make that a risky business.

The charity’s Age Safe Scotland: Electrical Safety in an Ageing Population report found that 78 per cent of their homes belonging to Scotland elderly population are in disrepair, with 58 per cent requiring a critical repair.

Around two thirds of domestic fires in Scotland arise from electricity – with many caused by electrical products - and older people are much more vulnerable to injury from electrical fires than other age groups, it added.

According to the report, older people also tend to be owner-occupiers (72 per cent), living in homes built before 1982 that often lack important electrical safety features. Critically, Scotland’s quality standards for social housing and the private rented sector don’t apply to people who own the home that they live in.

The personal cost of electrical accidents can’t be calculated but Electrical Safety First found that injuries caused by an electrical fault costs Scottish tax-payers around £8.9 million each year. However, a third of this (£3m) is spent on older adults – who only represent 18 per cent of the total population. To put this in perspective, the average cost of a hospital admission for someone over 65 is comparable to the weekly cost of 28 people living in a care home.

Electrical Safety First said that Scotland’s ageing population will see a significant increase in age-related illness and frailty, with the growing numbers of those suffering from dementia - and the cognitive impairment it brings - a particular concern. The charity’s research found that electrical safety is a key issue for families and carers when leaving a person with dementia on their own.

However, electrical risk isn’t limited to those who live out their later years under their own roof. Scottish care homes are not legally required to carry out mandatory electrical safety checks. Yet in 2014 – 2015, there were 81 fires with an electrical source in Scottish care homes and the number of fires in the sector has increased over the last five years.

Electrical Safety First’s report makes a series of recommendations to the Scottish Government, including a call for free, five-yearly electrical safety checks for all households with one person of pensionable age. It has also recommended mandatory checks in the social rented and care sectors and that Residual Current Devices (RCDs) - which rapidly cut the current to reduce the risk of electric shock - should be fitted to all PRS homes.

Phil Buckle, director general of Electrical Safety First, said: “Over the last 6 years we have made over £90k available to Care and Repair Agencies in Scotland, to improve electrical safety in older people’s homes. But as this report makes clear, there is much more that needs to be done to protect Scotland’s ageing population. We hope the Scottish Government will take note and act on its recommendations.”

The charity’s call is supported by Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, who added: “We welcome this timely report as an opportunity to publicise the benefits of electrical safety checks for all. The personal and financial costs to domestic fires as a result of electrical dangers in the home cannot be allowed to continue to rise. We therefore urge the Scottish Government to take action now so that Scotland’s older people can enjoy safer, healthier and happier lives.”

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