Heaven knows we need a fresh start. With every tweak of the programmes, with every refinement of the strategy, the prospects of a convincing victory on the core front just get more remote. The fuel poor get to make harder and harder choices, the old and the young suffer health setbacks, the misery piles up. Words like national disgrace, scandal, heating or eating, become devalued.
We’ve ended up with a totally perverse delivery system. The general consensus is that an area-based, whole-house approach works best: what we’ve got is market-driven, bench-marked by cost-effectiveness, and funded by the energy companies who can’t deliver at scale because of the impact on consumer bills. We have programmes delivering the least satisfactory outcomes. A Written Parliamentary Answer at the end of January says it all. Citing the latest figures (21 November), it reported the achievements of the Energy Company and Green Deal in 2013. 471,766 measures had been installed in 403,000 houses (an average of 1.17 measures per house – hardly amounting to a whole-house make-over). 394,370 of those measures had been funded by ECO, and 8,485 by householders getting a Green Deal survey then claiming the cashback offer in the scheme. Only 458 had gone ahead with the Green Deal package, including finance. Continue reading “Re-grouping for a fresh offensive”
Age UK is distributing free room thermometers to older people in Reading this winter
Shockingly, Reading had the highest rate of excess winter deaths amongst those aged 65 and over between 2007 and 2010 – that’s equivalent to an average of 109 deaths per year.
With this in mind, Age UK is running a thermometer pilot project across Reading from December 2013 until the end of March 2014. We are enlisting the help of Gas Safety Engineers and health professionals (occupational therapists and intermediate care workers) who frequently visit older people in their own homes.
They are offering two free room thermometers to older people, along with advice on what to do to stay warm and well at home this winter. The aim of the pilot is to help raise awareness of the negative impact that the cold has on older people’s health and help make a positive difference to the 17,900 older people (aged 65 and over) who live in Reading. Continue reading “Checking Reading’s temperature…”
In 1993, two friends and colleagues of mine alighted from an internal flight in the heart of Siberia. The light was failing and the temperature plummeted as they wound their way from the landing strip into an endless forest. They were lost. Eventually, coming upon a wooden settlement, they found shelter with the village teacher, the only English speaker for many, many miles.
Professor Bill Keatinge later confided in me that he had learned two lessons from this incident. One was to learn Russian (which he later did, with some panache). The second was to dress like the Russians. Because Yakutsk, the city which they had come to visit, is the coldest city in the world. During their trip, the temperature fell to a mere -26C. The lowest winter temperatures reach -60.
And what, may we ask, was the attraction of this cold Siberian city? Ironically, the inhospitable, intractable, bone gnawing cold was the motivation for their journey. They were part of the Eurowinter Group, a collection of Europe’s finest scientists, whose mission was to unravel the complicated story of winter deaths in Europe. Until that time, no-one had a convincing explanation (scientists call this a ‘model’) of the pattern of winter deaths in Europe which varied from one country to another. And the prime question was why on earth should the British Isles, with its temperate maritime climate, be the villain of the piece, with many more ‘excess winter deaths’ than its colder European neighbours? Continue reading “A Lesson from Siberia”
The fuel poverty strategy of 2001 (‘to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016’) has patently failed. A new one is promised in the current Energy Bill, which is completing its Parliamentary stages.
Within six months of the date of the Act receiving Royal Assent (in December or January), the Government is bound to propose a new strategy, after which there will be a public consultation, a Government response, and the tabling of the necessary secondary legislation. This ponderous process means we might not have a new strategy in place till early 2015 (though ministers hope to move faster), but clearly the thinking time has already started.
Age UK, with others, is in constant conversation with the Department of Energy & Climate Change. A key bone of contention is the targets to be set in the strategy, since these will only be real if there is funding to underpin them, and there is considerable uncertainty about the available funds. Continue reading “A new fuel poverty strategy”
This morning the Office for National Statistics announced that there were 31,100 excess winter deaths last winter.
To say this is a national shame (as we have done) is both a cliché and also absolutely true.
Excess winter deaths – or the additional deaths during the winter months when compared to the rest of the year – are entirely preventable.
We know this because other countries with much harsher winters – such as the Scandinavian countries – have significantly fewer excess winter deaths.
Yet in the UK the numbers remain stubbornly high. Today’s figures show a 29% rise on the previous year and represent a four year high.
We all know that last winter was cold and long, but the figures are still unacceptable. That older people’s lives are still at the mercy of the weather in the twenty-first century is something we should rightly be ashamed of. Continue reading “The shame of excess winter deaths”
At the heart of Age UK’s Warm Homes Campaign lies the conviction that the best way to insulate people from remorseless increases in energy costs and the health risks posed by cold homes is a major house refurbishment programme. The Green Deal was intended to drive that work – and upgrade 4m homes by 2020 – but the six month figures for the scheme are hapless, and we see no room for optimism any time soon.
As of mid-October, there are 219 Green Deal schemes in operation. True, there is a upstream pipeline of house surveys completed and Green Deal plans in preparation, but older householders seem rather underwhelmed. Whilst one in ten say their homes were not warm enough last winter and they would benefit from improved energy efficiency measures, 70% said they would not want a Green Deal. The most frequently cited reasons were aversion to debt, and seeing the ‘loan’ repayment scheme as too expensive. Continue reading “Green Deal performing poorly”
Shockingly, 24,000 older people in England and Wales may not survive the cold weather this winter – that’s 200 deaths a day that could be prevented.
Continue reading “Spread the Warmth”