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TOPIC: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year?

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 2 months ago #31

To tackle fuel poverty, we need certainty on funding programmes and measures over the next 5 years. Whilst past schemes such as CERT or CESP and current schemes such as ECO and Green Deal are well documented, their impact has been uneven and future programmes suffer from the lack of a robust, forward looking energy policy from central Government. VAT, planning and building regulations need to be looked at as well in order to make refurbishment ‘pay’ and be an attractive option for developers and housing providers so that the real issues with existing stock can be tackled. However, there is a flip side to this – consumers need to become more resource savvy. Switching needs to become the norm rather than something you do when you get a high bill and energy efficient behaviour must become more prevalent amongst the UK public.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 2 months ago #32

First of all I should mention that Peter Smith's post sums things up quite nicely.

Like many local authorities we try to identify local residents who are at risk of fuel poverty and provide assistance. We do this in partnership with local third sector organisations notably Age UK and the Citizens Advice Bureau and health and social workers. Where practical we provide heating and insulation works to make it cheaper and easier to keep homes warm and we also look to increase residents ability to pay through income maximisation and tariff advice. We can also provide short term emergency heating to vulnerable residents during cold weather but this, like all of our services depends on them being referred to us. Despite this we still find residents in households with new heating systems who are afraid to switch them on as they are worried about the costs of heating. This is exacerbated by the limited opportunities to provide effective insulation due to older housing stock that does not have cavity walls and planning restrictions that do not allow for external solid wall insulation in large parts of the borough. We have supported a scheme for the last 3 years that provides a mechanism for donating and redistributing the winter fuel allowance to our older more vulnerable residents helping to reduce the impact of large winter heating bills. The seemingly relentless rise in the cost of fuel bills is a cause for real concern and threatens to outweigh the benefits of any work to improve income or energy efficiency.

The changes in funding for heating and insulation works have also left us in a weaker position to help residents in the borough through grant schemes for heating and insulation although we hope that the situation improves as the use of ECO funding becomes more widespread. We are actively encouraging our social housing sector to take advantage of the funding available and this is being done with varying degrees of success.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 2 months ago #33

Globally, demand for energy is rising. At the same time, UK production of oil and gas is falling, making us increasingly dependent on imported fossil fuel and exposed to international fuel price volatility.

The sustainable use of energy is therefore critical in keeping bills low, maintaining energy security and tackling dangerous climate change.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 2 months ago #34

I will try to keep the answers simple but in essence good thermal efficiency of dwellings is one of the key measures that need to be applied to a property in order to minimise heat loss and thereby reduce overall running costs, also having a modern efficient heating system is clearly important but this must be linked to correct and full control by means of zoning, programmable room stats, TRV’s and a competitive tariff to run it from.

We are continually improving our housing stocks energy efficiency performance by means of intervention methods including a variety of means such as, External Wall Insulation to properties built of the non -traditional type, upgrading loft insulation, ensuring cavity walls are filled, installing A rated boilers and upgrading all UPVC doors & windows.

These factors are part of the cure but obviously very expensive and not everyone is in the luxurious position of living in a North Lincolnshire Homes property thereby, needing a more simple solution, these include, simple draught excluders, wearing appropriate clothing, eating & drinking warm foods, using hot water bottles, using blankets to wrap up of an evening to mention but a few.

Education is a big part of the problem and the need to understand how your heating system works is critical with getting to grips of how all the controls interact essential, the Government has also provided funding streams to target the vulnerable and organisations such as help home heat help line exist to provide information.

Ultimately, we all need to remember we are in this together and need to assist one another within our communities, offering help and assistance to those more needy, especially the homeless, who have none of the property related issues above but face a dramatic challenge to keep warm and well every time there is a 1 degree drop in temperature.

Fuel poverty is a huge issue without an easy solution but together we can help stem the flow with innovative approach and seminars such as this help broadcast that message.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 2 months ago #35

It seems that although the Government have started to recognise fuel poverty as a growing problem in recent years, in this time the resources that are needed to address the problem have in fact reduced. More concerning though is the recent shift to using carbon saving targets and energy company obligations alone to tackle fuel poverty because in many ways and for many households, fuel poverty is more of a public health issue than a green issue. Of course I recognise the need to use energy efficiency measures to tackle certain elements of fuel poverty, but I believe it is really inappropriate to actually to apply carbon saving targets to save to households that have severe excess cold hazards and are compromising their own health through lack of heating or the funds to run their heating. Until more public health resources are applied to reducing fuel poverty (based on common sense and not carbon savings), I believe the poverty gap will only get wider between the fuel poor and those able to heat their homes affordably and efficiently; excess winter deaths and sickness from cold homes will continue to rise and the issue will continue to grow.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #36

Between 2005 and 2011 fuel prices doubled, and energy consumption in the UK (based on real metered data) reduced by 24% (Office for National Statistics, 2013). This year, we again saw an average of 10% rise in fuel prices (albeit moderated by recent policy announcements). Behind these figures are people and families who are increasingly struggling to make ends meet, and as a consequence to heat their homes to an adequate temperature. In a recent study, we found that people’s lives have changed markedly during the last decade, with households having to make daily decisions as to which basic needs (food, fuel) to fulfil. We interviewed 15 people, across a range of ages, household types and regions of the UK, and found that strategies for managing fuel poverty have become increasingly drastic. Take Jan, for instance, who had not turned her central heating on for three years despite various health complaints. Or Kelly, who was going into debt in order to ensure that the house was warm enough for her teenage sons. Of course, rising fuel prices are not the only issue here and we identify five other issues that contribute to people’s vulnerability: the quality of housing stock; tenancy relations; stability of household income; strength of social relations and ill health. Currently the fuel poor sit at the centre of a ‘perfect storm’ – with incomes going down, very limited investment in energy efficiency, landlords being unwilling or unable to make investments and the social safety net being compromised by years of recession and austerity. For me, the sustainable solution is to invest in energy efficiency, which is a way of ensuring people are protected from rising prices in the long term. Sadly, this is unlikely to be a priority for the current government. You can read more about our work here: tinyurl.com/howcanyoulivelikethat.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #37

Cold homes and the risk of debt caused by fuel poverty are exacerbating factors in many health and social problems

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #38

Fuel poverty is a major issue for many householders, making them choose between heating their homes and feeding their families. We have worked with householders through projects designed to help those struggling with their fuel bills, through visiting them in their homes and working with Peterborough City Council, Age UK and the Salvation Army to create an advice hotline for the elderly and venerable, in order to provide them with hints and tips on how to reduce their energy and lower their bills and offering boiler services and repairs and draft proofing. Below are a couple of quotes from the people we have helped:

“We are always worried about the need for money for either heating or food, the boiler service and draught proofing was a great help, it has meant that the money we would have spent on the service can be put towards the cost of heating bills”. Mrs A, Peterborough

“I was unsure whether to call at first, but getting a massive gas bill prompted me to make the call, and I am so glad that I did. I was thankful to Jenny for phoning my energy company and it has now given me the confidence to phone them up myself if I have a query. The boiler is now sorted and I have stopped worrying about it!” Mrs Smith, Peterborough

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #39

In the largest ever study of poverty and social exclusion carried out in UK (published 28 March 2013) it was shown that the extent of poverty and multiple deprivation has increased to unprecedented levels, worse in some respects than 30 years ago when the ‘consensual’ method of poverty definition was first applied in a national survey. Although this survey does not measure ‘fuel poverty’ directly, because that would require detailed technical information on the dwelling’s energy performance, it does provide telling indirect evidence of pressures and problems households face in a period of falling living standards and a steep increase in fuel prices. Comparisons can be made with a similar survey carried out in 1999.

Households in debt or arrears with their fuel bills have risen from 4.2% in 1999 to 7.2% in 2012. Households using less fuel because they can’t afford it have risen from just over 10% to between 20% and 45%, depending on the measures taken to cut back on fuel. Households with inadequate heating systems have risen slightly, from 6.6% to 7.7%. However, housing problems related to insufficient heating have risen dramatically, with damp rising from 8.3% to 14.6% and mould/condensation rising from 5.9% to 11.1%. 9.1% of households said that the level of warmth in their home last winter was ‘a lot colder than they would have liked’. A third of those said that these problems affected their health and more than half said that they affected their social life, activities or mental state.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #40

Our WWC provides support for vulnerable people throughout the winter months. We conducted a collective energy switch earlier this year in partnership with Birmingham city council.

We have on-going programmes that will see social housing become more energy efficient. I have training for staff and residents to promote affordable warmth issues and information around changing tariffs.

We also utilise ECO as much as possible to ensure that vulnerable people receive the support they are entitled to.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #41

Fuel poverty disproportionately affects disabled people as research shows for a number of reasons. Disability and poverty are interlinked so that before the Coalition government came into power disabled people were twice as likely as non-disabled people to live in poverty and that situation is now worse. Disabled people face on average an extra 25% unavoidable expenditure compared to non-disabled people so with energy prices rising it hits disabled people even harder. Some impairments are aggravated by the cold which make it more important to keep warm. Meanwhile with frontline services being cut at the same time as job cuts and the continuing barriers disabled people face in employment, disabled people are more likely to spend greater periods of time indoors needing to heat their homes. At the same time with support packages being cut disabled people are increasingly lacking the support we need to manage our bills.

A combination of austerity measures which target disabled people and the greed of energy bosses putting profit before people are leaving disabled people choosing between heating and eating.

At DPAC we have joined forces with climate groups to campaign against fuel poverty. This has involved introducing activists to inclusive and accessible ways of working and raising awareness of disability equality issues. Not only is this a good example of integration but it has also made the campaign against rising energy bills more powerful. There is now a much greater awareness among members of the public of fuel poverty as a political issue that not only impacts on the living conditions of individuals but also has a strong social justice resonance. In this way it has become an issue which politicians can no longer ignore.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #42

24k winter deaths is still a figure too high. And with cuts in services this winter I am sure that we will be having an even higher figure this winter. We are already encountering clients whose income puts them just above the criteria for ECO but does not fit into Green Deal role but are unable to replace. heating systems. The Energy price increase are letting pensioners with health issue worried so are making the choice to eat but not heat. So as the temperature starts to drop I’m sure that there will be an increase in hospital admissions.

The government needs to also make a contribution toward reducing fuel poverty like the other devolved nations.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #43

At SYEC we are aware every day that more and more people are struggling to pay their fuel bills and keep their homes warm in Winter, from September as soon as temperatures drop we start getting more and more enquires /visitors to the energy centre asking for our help and advice on how to save energy and save money. We run various community outreach projects and targeted advice session such as Older, Wiser, Warmer a community volunteer project for the over 60’S. We engage with local people within their own community and train or support them to take control of their energy consumption and understand their fuel bills ensuring they are getting the best possible deal for their home energy. We have found this approach very successful as the constant rise in energy prices bring makes this topic of conversation engaging but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Training older people themselves is a small but beneficial way of reaching the more isolated and vulnerable elderly who may only be on the radar of a friendly neighbour or a local GP etc.

We run winter campaigns this year funded by DECC and Scottish Power and project providing keep warm information delivered at local community groups, churches reaching families and children and other vulnerable households including people living alone. We have produced Keep Warm & Well in Sheffield leaflets through a local partnership including Sheffield City Council , Citizens Advice, Sheffield 50+, and many more local VCF sector organisations who can offer support to survive winter. Together we are developing the cities Fuel Poverty Strategy which will inform the action that can be taken to resolve this growing issue and stop these unnecessary 24,000+ winter deaths.

I feel we make good progress every year only for our good work to be undone by fuel prices rising whilst peoples income is been reduced or frozen. Please can the energy company’s freeze their prices and stop freezing people, be part of making a real positives difference to people lives.

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #44

The Moray Council has a statutory to ensure "so far as reasonably practicable that persons do not live in fuel poverty". The Council’s actions to address fuel poverty in Moray are set out in its Local Housing Strategy, which seeks to achieve outcome that “people live in houses that they can afford to heat”. To achieve this outcome, the Council aims to the improve the energy efficiency of the homes of fuel poor households in all tenures and also to prioritise the fuel poor for energy advice services. The energy efficiency improvements are being delivered by the Moray Home Energy Efficiency Programme. This programme, which is financed by a combination of Green Deal Energy Company Obligation funding from the utility companies and Scottish Government grant, aims to target measures such insulation and replacement heating to fuel poor households. During 2013/14, the Council anticipates spending around £2m on the programme with a similar amount projected for 2014/14.

In terms of energy advice, the Council works closely with the Scottish Government funded Home Energy Scotland advice centres to target support to fuel poor households in Moray. The centres offer free and impartial energy telephone advice on a broad range energy-related matters, such as fuel debt, income maximisation and grants that are available for the installation of measures. The Council, in association with the Home Energy Scotland and other local partners, is in the process of setting up a locally-based energy advice service which will offer home visits by an energy advisor to households at high risk of fuel poverty. It is anticipated that the local service will be particularly valuable to older and vulnerable households.

In delivering new housing, the Council requires that developers of affordable housing in Moray build housing that is highly energy efficient and which incorporates the use of renewable energy sources

Re: Fuel poverty =24,000 deaths last year. Are you an observer or part of the solution this year? 1 month, 3 weeks ago #45

The Office for National Statistics recently published the figures for excess winter deaths (EWD)for 2012-13 which have now jumped up drastically to over 31,000. This is partially due to some lower than average temperatures during some of the months measured and an influenza like illness at Christmas.

Whilst this may account for the jump in figures it shouldn’t take away from the fact that we have been ‘flat lining’ since 2000 where, with the exception of the odd extreme winter, EWD have remained in the mid 20,000’s.

A huge number of properties have been insulated and had heating upgrades during this time yet the figures for EWD have not changed. It’s no coincidence that energy prices have massively increased and offset all the good work. A well-insulated home is great at keeping the heat in provided you can afford to put heat in to the home in the first place.

There is a clear correlation between EWD’s and hospital admissions. The Department of Health (DH) estimate that for every one excess winter death there are approximately eight extra hospital admissions. A major cost to the health service which ultimately is borne by us all. Hence its simple economics that make sense for us to invest in measures to upgrade the UK’s housing stock in the long run.

Sadly the reality is, as already has been pointed out, that expenditure on energy efficiency and heating measures is half what it was in 2010/11.

So what to do?
Well as we’ll all go on campaigning for the cause and calling for more help and investment, particularly for the ‘vulnerable’ we need to minimise the energy wastage in households and ensure that people understand the issues particularly how to operate their heating systems correctly. Since 1998 our insulation programmes we have helped over 25,000 households in Cornwall to make their homes warmer and save a total of over £2.5m per year on their energy bills. We’re currently launching an External Wall Insulation programme which will enable householders living in homes with solid walls (which accounts for 35% of Cornwall’s housing stock) to make their homes more efficient.

In Cornwall, Community Energy Plus have managed projects such as Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly’s Winter Wellness Programme. This brings together over 30 other organisations from the public, private, community and voluntary sectors to provide help for those people in fuel poverty who are most at risk of deteriorating health during the winter months. We provide a central contact point or ‘triage service’ for Winter Wellbeing, allowing customers to access a wide range of services from different organisations with one phone call. Last year this programme helped to improve the lives of 1553 people.

We’re also working to improve the quality of life for vulnerable people living in fuel poverty in Cornwall through our Big Lottery Funded ‘Warm Me Up!’ project. Since starting the project in October 2011 we have already advised 735 people, carried out 268 home visits and trained over 200 frontline workers.
With around half of Cornish homes not able to access mains gas, it never ceases to surprise me how many people operate electric night storage heaters incorrectly. Home visits are ideal to get to the crux of the issues with fuel poor households and offer an opportunity to see first hand heating systems and building conditions as well as have access to the customer’s bills and be able to act as an advocate for them in dealing with energy and housing issues. The latter is often now sadly trying to help overcome fuel debt problems but perhaps that’s a discussion for another day.
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