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Cold homes deaths ‘are preventable’

Katie Coyne06/12/2018 - 13:57

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Cold home deaths are 'preventable'
Cold home deaths are 'preventable'

A more coherent strategy covering both owner-occupied and rented housing is needed to tackle the rising number of winter deaths, a CIEH spokesperson has said.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that last year excess winter deaths in England and Wales exceeded 50,000 – 15,000 of these are due to cold homes. These figures are the highest number on record since the severe winter of 1975-76.

The National Energy Action charity described the deaths as ‘predictable, preventable and shameful’. NEA chief executive Adam Scorer said: ‘We seem to have accepted excess winter deaths to be as much a part of winter as darker evenings.’

He added: ‘The cost in human suffering and lost lives is a tragedy. The cost to the NHS is significant and largely avoidable.’

CIEH policy manager Tamara Sandoul said: ‘While the numbers change every year, one thing remains constant: far too many people still die due to cold conditions in their home.

‘The links between housing and health have been well known for some time but few government strategies connect these issues to make a difference to improving the housing stock as a whole.

‘Households in fuel poverty are particularly vulnerable to the unpredictable effects of cold weather. We would like to see a more coherent strategy covering both owner occupied and rented housing.’

Both the NEA and CIEH were critical that the government chose last month to opt for a lower cap of £3,500 on the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards – where landlords will not have to bring their property up to the minimum standards (an E rating) if improvements cost more than this.

Prior to this announcement landlords were exempt if they couldn’t make the improvements without a cost to themselves. So the recent announcement is an improvement but the NEA said it advocated a £5,000 cap, which it believed would have meant that more homes were brought up to a minimum standard.

NEA director of policy research Peter Smith warned that unless action was taken on the wider issues around cold homes the situation could only get worse and those in the private rented sector – which is on the increase – faired the worst.

He said: ‘While many people affected own their own homes the most affected elderly households will be ones that do live in the private rented sector and will have to pay high energy bills and a continuous outgoing of rent to pay for.’

*A recent Institute for Public Policy Research poll has found that most people believe the private renting system is unfair to tenants and gives landlords too much power. Poor conditions were highlighted as an issue with 27 per cent of properties failing to meet the Decent Home Standard.

Spotting people living in cold homes 

The NEA’s list of the top ten ways people try to keep warm at home:

  • Going to bed early.
  • Using unsafe, unserviced heating appliances or inappropriate devices such as ovens.
  • Cutting back on electricity and using candles instead of lights.
  • Leaving curtains closed all day or putting newspaper on the windows.
  • Spending the day in heated spaces such as the library, café or even A&E
  • Only heating one room or not using central heating at all.
  • Cooking using alternative sources such as a barbecue or portable stove.
  • Not inviting friends or family into the home.
  • Cutting back on buying essential personal items, food, eating only cold meals, or relying on food banks.
  • Formal or informal borrowing from friends and family.




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