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.
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 forced 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 additional strain on mental health is unimaginable.
This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, Friday 27 November, Warm and Well is participating in a national campaign to keep people warm and safe at home. 24,500 households in Gloucestershire and 8,000 in South Gloucestershire are considered fuel poor. That’s nearly 10% of the county, and while it is a statistic that is been improving in recent years, the impact of COVID19 retrictions are expected to plunge many more people into fuel poverty this winter.
National fuel poverty charity National Energy Action compiled insights on the main effects of Covid-19 for fuel poor households, as observed by Warm and Well and services like ours across the country. These include:
This winter, there may well will be a sudden increase in households experiencing fuel poverty. As the pandemic deepens and people are furloughed or made redundant, millions are facing their first winter on a reduced income. Householders who had previously managed their finances are now finding themselves struggling to meet basic living expenses like food and energy.
Local authorities across Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire partner with local charity Severn Wye Energy Agency to deliver Warm and Well, a support service for all households across the county to access advice and grant funding to help improve warmth at home. If you often struggle to keep warm or keep energy bills affordable during the winter months, call Warm and Well at 0800 500 3076 to check whether you may be eligible for funding towards insulation, draught-proofing or a free first-time central heating system through our Warm Homes Fund scheme.
Fuel Poverty Awareness Day exists because a cold home is often a hidden struggle. Low incomes and rising energy prices contribute to fuel poverty. So too do inadequate heating, insulation and ventilation. It’s a situation which tends to see the poorest people, living in the least energy-efficient homes, having to pay the most for their energy.