With almost 10,000 people on average dying in the UK because of conditions caused or worsened by living in a cold time, and with the Coronavirus pandemic possibly making the figure larger this winter, there has never been a better time for policy change and investment to ensure that the most vulnerable in society are kept warm.
Warm sanctuaries, such as cafés and libraries are shut this year due to Covid, meaning that vulnerable people are forced to spend more time in a poorly heated home.
The NEA also warns of the risk of the virus spreading due to using cold water when handwashing, meaning the virus may still survive on the hands, making someone more likely to be ill or make someone else ill.
This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, the NEA are pushing three key points that will help to bring down fuel poverty in the UK.
- Ensuring enough money for essentials
The current universal credit uplift, which is offering a lifeline to millions by providing extra money for living essentials, must be maintained and strengthened.
- Bringing forward Breathing Space and new actions to clear debt
Halting enforcement action, providing flexibility on repayment plans, and introducing new ways to help people with utility debts will help reduce the additional stress caused by falling into household debt and have a positive economic impact.
- A proactive, coordinated and targeted response from frontline agencies
Those most in need are not necessarily aware of or able to access the support that is available, particularly if they are digitally excluded, English is not their preferred language or they have other communication needs. National and local Government, energy suppliers, network operators, health agencies and other frontline organisations need to proactively identify and assist these customers and clients.
Various local authorities up and down the country are supporting NEA and Fuel Poverty Awareness Day.
Doncaster Council’s Energy Team member, Richard Smith, said:
”Winter can be tough, and this year some people will really struggle to manage their energy bills and keep their homes warm. It is really important that people know about the local help that is available including advice, support and grants.”
NEA Chief Executive, Adam Scorer, said:
"This winter that lethal cocktail will be made many times worse by the impact of Covid-19. Ultimately the best solution is a strategic one. To turn cold and dangerous properties into warm and safe homes, easy and cheap to heat. It is well understood that delivering good, warm homes create jobs, reduces carbon emissions, eases pressure on the NHS as well as allows people to live better lives.
But that vital project is for the decades. Fuel poverty will cost lives this winter, and so we’re calling on local authorities to do what they can along with national government, energy suppliers, network operators, health agencies and other frontline organisations to proactively identify and assist people in fuel poverty and at risk of cold-related ill health, making sure that they are aware of the help available and supported to take action."