New ‘Warm Minds’ energy project will provide vulnerable people with additional support this winter

Hundreds of people living with mental health issues, dementia, learning difficulties and learning disability across England and Wales are set to benefit from bespoke energy help and advice this winter.

A new project called Warm Minds is being rolled out in seven areas across the East Midlands, North East, Yorkshire, Merseyside, South East and South Wales, led by fuel poverty charity National Energy Action with support from E.ON.

Vulnerable people will get support to help them better manage their energy use and achieve warmer healthier homes.

Frontline support agency staff who notice that those they’re working with are living in cold, damp homes, that they may struggle to heat, will be given energy advice training to help them to help others. These issues can pose a serious risk to physical health and mental wellbeing and frontline workers are often the ones who spot problems first.

Warm Minds will also be looking to work directly with people who are affected and their carers, to improve living conditions and keep homes warm and healthy. There will be a range of activities to help people better understand how to use and manage energy and appliances at home, interpret energy bills, access better energy deals, schemes and services.

Malcolm Dove, Project Manager at National Energy Action commented: “Mental health is negatively affected by fuel poverty and cold housing for any age group. The detrimental physical effects of living in cold, damp homes are well accepted but the psychological side cannot be overlooked. Living in cold conditions for long periods can be stressful in itself but can be aggravated further by worry, about accessing energy for health and comfort, managing energy bills and dealing with energy debt.

“Limiting the negative effects of fuel poverty and cold homes is important to health, both mental and physical and the Warm Minds project is reaching out to help organisations providing support services to those who may be more vulnerable and/or less able to achieve a warmer, damp free home they can afford to heat. NEA hopes to both share our own expertise in providing energy advice and to learn from organisations and service users about their energy advice and support needs.”

Fiona Stark, Corporate Affairs Director at E.ON, said: “We work hard to ensure that we provide our vulnerable customers with additional help to manage their energy use and we’re pleased to be extending this support to the Warm Minds project.

“It’s really important that we identify anyone that may need that extra bit of help and we hope this project can make a real difference to peoples’ lives; making their energy experience as simple as possible, bringing peace of mind regarding their bills and ensuring they’re comfortable in their homes.”

ENDS

For media enquiries regarding NEA contact Sahdia Hassen at Sahdia.hassen@nea.org.uk or phone 0191 269 2936.

For more information or enquiries regarding E.ON please contact Roxanne Postle: roxanne.postle@eon-uk.com / 02476 195 785

About the project

1. For further information on the Warm Minds project please visit http://www.nea.org.uk/projects/warm-minds .Projects are currently being rolled out in various localities across the East Midlands, North East, Yorkshire, Merseyside, South East and South Wales.
2. The Warm Minds Project originated as a pilot project in the North East of England from April 2012-March 2013 originally funded by the ScottishPower Energy People’s Trust.
3. The Warm Minds Project 2016-2017 is currently supported by E.ON.

Fuel poverty facts

4. A household is said to be in fuel poverty when its members cannot afford to keep adequately warm at reasonable cost, given their income. Fuel poverty is caused by low incomes, rising energy prices and energy inefficient housing.
5. NEA estimates that some 4.5 million household in the UK are living in fuel poverty. (NEA. Accessed June 2016)
6. In the UK mental health problems represent the single largest burden of disease. (Source: Fundamental Facts about Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation. 2015. Accessed June 2016)
7. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any given year (Source: Fundamental Facts about Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation. 2015. Accessed June 2016)
8. People with learning disabilities present with a higher prevalence of mental health problems compared to those without. In a 2007 UK population-based study of 1023 people with learning disabilities, it was found that 54% had a mental health problem. (Source: Fundamental Facts about Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation. 2015. Accessed June 2016)
9. “Damp, cold housing is associated with an increase in mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Living in these homes can affect people’s ability to go about their daily lives. Some people become socially isolated because they are reluctant to invite friends or family to a cold house, while others seek refuge elsewhere as an alternative to staying in. Cold housing can also negatively affect children’s emotional wellbeing and resilience. It can be difficult for children to study or do homework in a cold house, which affects educational and long-term health and work opportunities. Studies have suggested that more than one in four adolescents living in cold housing are at risk of developing mental health problems, compared with one in 20 adolescents who have always lived in warm housing.Although we cannot measure a direct increase in demand on mental health services due to cold weather, we know that there is an association between common mental disorder (CMD) – including depression and anxiety – and cold, damp homes. A questionnaire linking proxies for fuel poverty to CMD showed that 10% of those with CMD reported not being able to keep their home warm enough in winter, compared with just 3% without CMD. Of those with CMD, 15% said they had mould in their home, compared with 8% with no CMD”. (Source: In ‘Cold Weather Plan For England. Making the Case: Why long-term strategic planning for cold weather is essential to health and wellbeing’. Public Health England, NHS England. October 2015)
10. More than one in four adolescents living in cold housing are at risk of multiple mental health problems compared to one in 20 who have always lived in warm housing.
11. The Marmot Review report makes reference to a study on the Warm Front and Scottish Central Heating Programme evaluation which assessed mental health impacts on adults and both found that effects were prominent in the mental health domain, in particular for borderline anxiety and depression. In the short and medium term, receiving a Warm Front package is associated with significantly better mental health. The study showed that as average bedroom temperature rose, the chances of occupants avoiding depression increased. Residents with bedroom temperatures at 21°C are 50% less likely to suffer depression and anxiety than those with temperatures of 15°C. (Source – The Health Impacts of Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty, Marmot Review Team and Friends of the Earth, page 29).
12. Chronic conditions may also lower body metabolism which means the body generates less heat, while stroke, Parkinson’s disease and dementia restrict activity, slowing body heat generation and conservation. Cold housing may also delay recovery following discharge from hospital (Source: The Health Impacts of Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty, Marmot Review Team and Friends of the Earth, May 2011).
13. “Respiratory disease is a leading cause of excess winter death in England and Wales, (Excess Winter Mortality Statistics. ONS, 2015)”. “Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was one of the leading causes of death in 2014 (Source ONS, 2015a), and also displays marked seasonal effects. EWM from these causes reached a record high in 2014/15, with 9,100 excess winter deaths. The seasonal effect was more than double that seen for circulatory diseases, with 52% more people dying from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in the winter than in the non-winter months, up from 22% in 2013/14. An ICD-10 coding change introduced in January 2014 may account for some of this increase, but not all. For more information, see the “Methodological Changes” section. The reasons for the seasonal pattern in deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not clear. However, it may be related to the greater vulnerability of people with these conditions to respiratory diseases, difficulties with self-care, and falls, all of which may be more important in winter months”. (Source Statistical Bulletin. ONS, November 2015)
14. Age UK has calculated that the estimated cost to the NHS in England arising just from cold homes is around £1.36 billion per year. (Source: Energy Bill Revolution website – accessed June 2016)

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