It’s the last day of Cold Homes Week and in this blog post, Sue Linge, Campaigns Support Officer, talks about Age UK’s campaign for warm park homes and her recent visit with Rebecca Harris MP for Castle Point in Essex to the largest park home site in the UK.
For tens of thousands of older people living in park homes (static mobile homes), their ‘dream homes’ are straining their finances and putting their health at risk as they struggle to keep warm this winter.
Around 100,000 people aged 65+ are estimated to live in this type of prefabricated home, which appeals to many older people as an attractive and seemingly more affordable option than a traditional home.
Yet the reality is that these park homes, the majority of which were constructed before 2005 when insulation standards weren’t included in the British Standard for Park Homes, can be very poorly insulated, which makes them extremely difficult and expensive to heat.
“My storage heaters are old and lose heat very quickly in the morning, and they’re very expensive to run. Of an evening it is cold and that’s why we had to buy that portable Calor gas heater, and we used to put that on. But I hardly use it now. I may use it for a while in the morning when I get dressed, and then of an evening when it gets cold I might, and as soon gets warm and I switch it off. It’s expensive to run. Winters here are very cold! That’s because the cold comes up through the floor. My son in law did put insulation in the two bedrooms, and he said the insulation in the walls was just like the thickness of polystyrene ceiling tiles – that thin. That’s all you’ve got.”
Joan, 87, who lives on a small site in Epping, speaks for a vast number of park home residents, many of whom are on fixed incomes and where their only hope of financial support to improve the energy efficiency of their homes is by accessing one of the Government’s schemes.
This is a forlorn hope for many. Only a few local authorities have funding for home energy measures and often these funds provide help for improvements which are inappropriate for park homes, such as loft insulation (park homes do not have lofts), or cavity wall insulation (park homes are solid wall constructions).
With the Green Deal now closed and ECO contributions from energy suppliers typically insufficient to cover the full cost of heating and insulation measures necessary to ensure a warm home, park home residents have nowhere to turn for help.
REBECCA HARRIS MP VISITS KINGS PARK VILLAGE
So to coincide with Cold Homes Week, we invited local partners and MPs with park home sites within their constituencies, to visit local residential sites and hear directly from older people who live on the site about the problems they face keeping warm and well in their homes.
Rebecca Harris, MP for Castle Point in Essex, has the largest park home site in the UK within her constituency, Kings Park Village, where there are 850 homes occupied by residents aged 50+. Andrew Gardner, Chief Officer of Age UK Essex, and I were given a short tour of the site by the site’s managing director, to see some of the older properties and compare them to a new top-of-the-range home with good quality insulation already installed.
Rebecca and Andrew were able to meet with several of the residents living in older properties on the park, hear about difficulties they had experienced applying for Green Deal finance, and just how beneficial it would be for them to have access to the same state support as those living in more traditionally constructed homes.
Rebecca was very supportive, and spent over an hour and a half talking with us and discussing how she and some of the other 40 or more MPs who have so far pledged support for our campaign, can help to take it forward.
For more information on Age UK’s campaign for warm park homes, visit the Age UK website