Winter deaths up by 40 per cent
Last winter, there were an estimated 34,300 excess winter deaths (EWDs) in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The number of EWDs between December 2016 and March 2017 rose by 40%, compared to the winter before.
It was the second highest level of EWDs in eight years.
Females and elderly people were most affected by EWDs last winter period.
Over one-third of all EWDs were caused by respiratory diseases.
Cold homes are a significant cause of illness over the winter period and one-in-ten homes are currently classified as living in fuel poverty.
A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if they are required to spend more than 10% of their income on fuel to maintain an adequate standard of warmth.
Many energy bills have gone up by around 10% this year.
Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us, said: “It’s a tragic reminder that even in modern Britain people die because they simply don’t have the money to allow them to stay warm.
“Much more needs to be done to prevent people from dying because they can’t afford to hear their homes properly.
“That means making sure that people are receiving the help that they are entitled to and eligible for, such as Winter Fuel Payments and charitable grants that can help people with fuel bills and energy efficiency.”
Last year may have been among the warmest years on record but that hasn’t affected the growing pressure on Government to reform the Winter Fuel Payment scheme and current energy efficiency measures.
According to Age UK, one older person dies every seven minutes from the cold and many more become seriously ill as a result of not being able to afford to heat their homes properly. Despite throwing millions of pounds at the problem each year, neither the Government’s winter fuel scheme nor Ofgem’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) have been able to combat this horrific trend.
New findings from Policy Exchange have shown that fuel cost is not a problem endemic to older people living on their own and that it is of a much wider scale than previously thought. In its report ‘Warmer Homes: Improving fuel poverty and energy efficiency in the UK’, the think tank suggested that of the 2.3m homes currently in fuel poverty, some 1.1m of those are working families.
It also found that only 10% of Winter Fuel Payment recipients were technically living in ‘fuel poverty’ and that an opt-in scheme had to be introduced that would save some £400m, which could be reallocated to those who needed it most.
Government strategy on energy efficiency in general has fallen under a lot of scrutiny amid lobbyist claims that subsidies are fundamentally flawed. ‘Warmer Homes’ found that only 33% of fuel poverty funding actually goes to help those people who need it most and suggested that an opt-in scheme would work better. It said the focus of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme needed to be shifted onto fuel-poor households, which would raise an additional £375m-a-year to allocate to fuel poor households.
Last year the Department for Work and Pensions admitted to journalists that it is unsure how much in fuel payments (usually £200 – £300) is returned but around 300 citizens had decided to who feel they do not need it, spurred by one good-spirited person who wrote to the Chancellor returning her payment. For many people, not being able to adequately heat their homes severely affects their ability to live independently and be a key factor in deciding whether they go into residential care before they may feel ready to do so.
There is also a growing debate on whether ex-pats living on warmer climates should get winter fuel payments. It is currently set to end as part of the shake-up that involves using an average temperature test based on whether the country is hotter than the warmest parts of the UK.
Energy efficiency should be infrastructure priority
In 2014, the Government reviewed the issue of fuel poverty and set a new target for all 2.3m households that are technically fuel-poor and to get them to a Level C of fuel efficiency by 2030.
Richard Howard, Head of Environment and Energy at Policy Exchange criticised the Government’s current efforts and said: “Based on current policies, the Government is going to fall well short of this target. Current Government spending amounts to around £500m per year in England in upgrading the energy efficiency of fuel-poor homes. But actually the required level of spending is around £1.2bn, so there’s a funding gap of around £700m per year.”
It is clear that winter fuel payments are a critical support for many older people living in fuel poverty but much more is needed to ensure the scheme helps those people who need it most.
Credits – CARING HOMES
“For those of you out their with blogs, on Twitter of Facebook etc etc, keep highlighting and pushing these issues as it’s all we have to indirectly get balance and fairness in our society”