In any normal winter millions of people struggle to stay warm at home. Rising energy costs, low incomes and energy inefficient homes converge to leave them in desperate situations where they can no longer afford to heat their homes, feed their families and pay their rent. Those affected cope as best they can – by cutting back on essentials, rationing energy use, and taking respite in other warm places. But even then it isn’t always enough. 12,000 people die on average in the UK each year because of health conditions caused or worsened by living in a cold home, and fuel poverty is a known risk factor for suicide.
This is not a normal winter. Covid-19 is combining with cold homes to accelerate and multiply these issues. The doors of warm sanctuaries, such as libraries, cafes and the homes of loved ones, are shut. People are compelled to spend more time in homes that they can’t afford to heat, causing some of the very health issues that will put them most at risk. Beyond the direct overlap between acute respiratory conditions and cold homes, the virus can thrive in unhygienic conditions when people are forced to use cold water to wash themselves or their clothes, or have the whole family crowd into the only heated space in the house. The strain on mental health is unimaginable.
Cold homes are preventable, and policy interventions to make fuel poor homes easier and cheaper to heat are on the horizon, but these will offer little respite for those struggling now.
This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day we are launching our Warm and Safe Homes Campaign and urging greater action to help people in fuel poverty this winter. At the same time we will also be highlighting some of the amazing work which is being undertaken across the country to support people in need.
More information can be found on our Fuel Poverty Awareness Day page.
For media enquiries contact Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns on 07884371913 / firstname.lastname@example.org