On the third day of Cold Homes Week our guest blogger Richard Twinn, Policy Adviser at the UK Green Building Council, talks about why energy efficient homes are so important in the cold homes crisis. Continue reading “Why energy efficiency is the solution to cold homes”
It’s Cold Homes Week and Age UK is raising awareness of the devastating effects of the cold on older people. In this guest blog post, Alan Maryon-Davis, who is Honorary Professor of Public Health at Kings College London, explains why the issue of cold homes is a massive public health crisis.
This week, Age UK is running Cold Homes Week, a week of action on fuel poverty and excess winter deaths.
The Government’s latest statistics reveal that shockingly, 40,800 older people died in England and Wales last winter because of the cold. This is more than double the number of deaths than the previous year and far more than those who die from road fatalities annually.
The Coalition Government devolved the delivery of fuel poverty policy to the energy supply industry by introducing the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) to the household names in the energy supply business. Via their licence to supply, they are obligated to reduce domestic carbon emissions (ie help households to use less energy) by the most cost-effective method.
Scaling back of the Energy Company Obligation
This turned out to be a programme which added about 5% to gas bills and about 11% to electricity bills yielding some £1bn per year for remedial fuel poverty work. As global energy prices rose, these ‘extras’ on gas and electricity bills came into the firing line, and the Government scaled back ECO in 2013. With no tax-funded programme in play, and what is effectively a cap on what it obliges energy companies to do, the outlook for those in fuel poverty is bleak. Continue reading “Fuel poverty – the next steps?”
A NICE Guideline is not mandatory, but it is pretty firm – it uses the language ‘should’. So its Guideline on how Health and Wellbeing Boards – and indeed health professionals across the board – should deal with excess winter deaths and the issue of winter morbidity is very welcome, and offers encouragement to campaigners who have been looking for a greater focus on this age-old problem.
NICE starts unambiguously by pinning the problem to cold and hard-to-heat homes. And although the level of public concern rises when there is a spell of really cold weather, NICE points out that the health consequences begin to appear in ‘normal’ cold weather – when temperatures fall to six or five degrees (and that happens much more frequently that touching zero or below). Continue reading “Calling for action on winter deaths and illnesses”
The figures for ‘excess winter deaths’ for last winter (2013-14) are mercifully down on the truly awful figures for the previous year. But this is no cause for celebration. It is a grim reminder that the debate about energy is not just about prices, but is also about lives, illness and misery.