Charity warning about impact of fuel poverty on health



As the temperature is due to drop below zero around the UK over the next few days, a leading poverty charity is raising concerns about the impact of the cold weather on those who struggle to heat their homes.

Turn2us, which has people contacting it for help with their energy costs on a daily basis, says that many people tell them that they do not turn on their heating as a result. The charity says that living in a cold home has very serious consequences for people’s health and points to the rising number of people diagnosed with a respiratory condition upon admittance to an Accident and Emergency department in England, which has gone up from 602,701 in 2014-5 to 676,079 in 2015-16.*

The warning comes as today’s publication by the Department of Work and Pensions of the Cold Weather Payments figures from the 1st of November 2016 and the 6th of January 2017 showed that 28,000 of payments were made between that period.**

Cold Weather Payments are made when the average temperature in an area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days, and it is paid to people on certain benefits. While the payment of £25 for each seven day period helps many struggling with their energy costs, Turn2us says that many others are still unable to afford to heat their homes adequately which can have a serious impact on their health.

The charity says that worrying about energy costs was also exacerbating the detrimental impact on health of living in a cold home. A survey of over 4,000 people seeking the charity’s help found that energy costs was causing one in five respondents (20%) stress and worry, and one in six (17%) were cutting back on food to pay their energy bills.***

Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us, which recently met with a number of energy companies, including the ‘big six’, as well consumer organisations, to discuss how economically vulnerable people can get better access to practical help with their fuel bills, said: “Living in a cold home is not just miserable and uncomfortable, it is very bad very your health. The brutal reality is that there are people throughout the country living like this.

“More needs to be done to help them. Charities and energy companies need to work together to ensure that vulnerable customers are receiving all of the help that they are entitled to and support that they are eligible for. It is not acceptable that people in the UK are freezing in their homes in 2017.”


*Table 14: Number of A&E attendances, A&E primary diagnosis '2 character description field' 2014-15 and 2015-16, Hospital Accident and Emergency Activity, 2015-16

**Cold Weather Payments: 1 Nov 2016 to 6 Jan 2017 (estimated), Department of Work and Pensions

*** Turn2us surveyed 4,000 people who had come to the charity for support from 1st September – 23rd November 2016