Fears grow of needless deaths and cold-related morbidity this winter

Embargo: 00:01, Friday 3 July 2020

Contact: Sarah Wright, Head of Communications, NEA
Out of hours: 07884371913

  •  Latest YouGov polling finds one in three British households are fearful of health impacts of living in a cold home
  • GPs and UK public health directors write to Prime Minister saying cold spell could overwhelm health and social care services this coming winter
  • Growing calls for government to save lives, create jobs and deliver warmer, healthier homes

A new YouGov poll, commissioned by National Energy Action (NEA), shows that one-in-three British households are concerned about the health impacts of living in a cold home. Whilst the current Covid-19 health crisis has so far taken place in the warmer months, GPs and UK public health directors have warned the Prime Minister cold spells combined with Covid-19 could be catastrophic for individuals and families, and overwhelm our health and social care services this winter. They join growing calls for government to honour a key manifesto pledge to invest in warmer and healthier homes. NEA, the national fuel poverty and energy efficiency charity, says there is strong public support for investing to fix Britain’s cold, leaky homes and creating local retrofitting jobs.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of National Energy Action (NEA) comments:

“There is real fear of cold-related ill health this winter. Alongside the psychological stress and social isolation caused by the virus, too many will have to choose between heating their home adequately and falling into debt or rationing their energy use and living in cold, damp homes that are dangerous to their health and can shorten their lives. With one-in-three highlighting pressing concerns about the health impact living in a cold home could have this winter, our recent polling suggests millions of people across the country will be dreading this coming winter.”

Dr Rupert Suckling, Director of Public Health, Doncaster Council says:

“The health implications of cold temperatures on respiratory conditions and on frail and elderly households are well known. Earlier this week we joined over 120 organisations and individuals at the forefront of the current Covid-19 crisis – including GPs, fellow directors of public health, and health, housing, energy and many advice organisations – to warn the government a cold spell this winter could be catastrophic for individuals and families and overwhelm our health and social care services. We hope the government listens and ends the vicious cycle of hospital admission, discharge and readmission cold homes can prompt.”

NEA’s Scorer concludes:

“There is rare consensus on the importance of addressing these critical issues. It was disappointing that refurbishing existing homes did not feature within the Prime Minister’s speech. There is strong public support for fixing Britain’s cold, leaky housing. Millions of the poorest households live in homes which are dangerous in cold weather. It is no surprise that three in four people support the UK Government urgently investing to improve home energy efficiency and two thirds support the local jobs this could create.

Our message to the government is simple: follow through with your manifesto promise to deliver warmer, healthier homes that save lives and create jobs.”


Notes to editor

  1. National Energy Action (NEA) works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that everyone in the UK can afford to live in a warm and safe home. We aim to improve access to energy and debt advice, provide training, support energy efficiency policies and co-ordinate other related services which can help change lives. NEA’s campaigning and policy work seeks to channel the in-house expertise gained from our delivery and research work in order to better inform national policies and policy makers to end fuel poverty across the UK.
  2. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,626 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th – 28th June 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  3. The Conservative manifesto and Queen’s Speech committed to investing £9.2 billion in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals; £3.8 billion over ten years for a Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, £2.5 billion over five years to 2025 for Home Upgrade Grants for supporting deep renovation for low income households living in highly inefficient homes and £2.9 billion over five years to 2025 for a Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. This amounts to an additional investment, over and above current policies, of £2.9 billion over the next two years.
  4. The impact of cold temperatures on respiratory conditions and on frail and elderly is well known. This evidence is based on a health equality guidance review by Public Health England (PHE) into fuel poverty and cold home-related health problems that has been reinforced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) who have also produced related guidelines on reducing the risk of the impact of cold homes. This has subsequently been acted upon by many local councils and NEA have catalogued many of health and housing schemes last year where public health teams are now playing a key role in deploying energy efficiency improvements to address the health implications of fuel poverty and cold, damp and moldy homes. Similar work has demonstrated the positive health benefits, see: https://www.nea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/WHHF-Impact-Report-2018.pdf).
  5. Last year, the UK Government published a consultation on an updated strategy to achieve statutory requirements to help fuel poor households. An updated strategy is vital as progress towards this target is currently flat-lining and only 12% of all fuel poor households meet statutory 2030 energy efficiency requirement. Whilst delivery of energy efficiency (particularly insulation) has recently been paused, it’s hoped that the Chancellor’s upcoming summer economic update on Wednesday 8 July 2020 will confirm the Government’s intention to honour their energy efficiency commitments.
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