23 Oct 2011

2,700 will die from being fuel poor

Almost 3,000 people in England and Wales will die this winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes - more than the number killed in traffic accidents each year (see The Guardian here). Yesterday I blogged on fuel poverty - today again I want to highlight this issue, but first a mention of the Friends of the Earth campaign - they are trying to stop the big energy companies taking us for a ride - see here to sign petition and see their fun video - of course fuel prices are also high due to Peak Oil (see Ecologist article here) but that is another story...

Earlier this week the Hills Fuel Poverty Review, commissioned by the government, found that if just 10% of UK winter deaths are caused by fuel poverty (a conservative estimate) 2,700 people will perish as a direct result of being fuel poor. The report clearly indicates that, however we define fuel poverty or formulate remedial policies, the scale of the problem is vast and growing - with low-income households spending over £1 billion more on their energy needs than more affluent households.

Responding to publication of the Interim Report, Caroline Lucas MP (Green Co- chair of All-Party Parliamentary Fuel Poverty & Energy Efficiency Group), said earlier: "This report is yet more proof that low-income households are being completely ripped off on their energy bills. It is deeply unfair that those who can least afford it are expected to spend an even higher proportion of their income on energy than the average household just to achieve this basic right. If the Government is to deliver social justice alongside policies to facilitate the shift to a low carbon future, it desperately needs to wake up to the need for radical improvements in the UK's housing standards - and not ask poorer consumers to pay for it through their energy bills."

There are 27,000 extra deaths in the UK each winter compared to other times of year, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics. The report found most of this was due to cold weather. That figure is one of the highest in Europe and worse than Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Norway and France.  Click read more to see more.

Derek Lickorish, chair of the Government's Fuel Poverty Advisory Group (FPAG), called the figures for the number of deaths due to fuel poverty a "disgrace". He said: "Insulating the homes of the fuel poor is the only long-term and sustainable solution to solving this problem, but they will need financial help to make this happen and this takes time. Urgent action must start today."

Kevin Hopkins MP (Labour Co- chair of FPEEG), said: "Living in a cold, damp home can lead to extremely poor health, and exacerbate conditions such as respiratory and coronary problems, especially in older people and even more worryingly young children whose immune systems have not yet fully developed. Crucially, Professor John Hills recognises that these health problems are distinctly linked to fuel poverty and that they pose a significant cost to the NHS."

Rebecca Harris MP, (Conservative Co- chair of FPEEG), said: "The scourge of fuel poverty affects many of our constituents up and down the country. As MPs, we all have a key role to play in raising awareness of this issue and help policy makers prioritise the needs of fuel poor households. We look forward to hearing more from Professor Hills next week when he will present his findings to the Parliamentary Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency Group.  Our Parliamentary colleagues will be keen to hear more about his recommendations and in particular how we can tackle this problem at a local level."

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