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30% of adults in Wales live in cold damp homes – double the UK average

13 Dec 2023 5 minute read
Black mould photo by Chaymation CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Around three-quarters of a million adults in Wales, (30%) are living in cold damp homes, exposed to the health complications that come from living in fuel poverty according to a recent report.

The latest data from the Warm This Winter campaign reveals that the proportion of people in cold damp homes in Wales is double that of the UK average (16% of adults / 8.3m people in total).

Severe health impacts

As well as the most vulnerable being more affected – such as those aged over 75, under 6 or with a pre-existing health condition or disability – there are stark differences based on the type of energy bill households have.

Across the whole of the UK, a third of smart meter customers who have a prepayment meter setting (32%) say they live in a cold damp home with 27% of those on traditional PPMs saying the same. Almost a quarter (22%) of standard credit customers are in cold damp homes, yet just 11% of direct debit customers live in such conditions.

The NHS warns that people with damp and mould in their homes are more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma.

Damp and mould can also affect the immune system while living in such conditions can also increase the risk of heart disease, heart attacks or strokes.

Cold homes can cause and worsen respiratory conditions, cardiovascular diseases, poor mental health, dementia and hypothermia as well as cause and slow recovery from injury.

Petitions with over 800,000 signatures have been handed into the Prime Minister calling for more action to bring down bills now and end energy debt to help end the cold damp homes crisis now facing the country.


Fiona Waters, spokesperson for the Warm This Winter campaign, commented: “It is no wonder that the public are now signing petitions in droves and pointing the finger of blame for the crisis on Ministers who have failed to act to protect the public from this crisis.

“Instead of help in the form of an Emergency Energy Tariff for vulnerable households and a Help To Repay scheme for those in energy debt, the public will instead be faced with increasing energy bills on 1 January 2024.”

Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented: “The UK Government needs to get a grip on the cold damp homes crisis now facing the country, with people spending the festive period in Dickensian conditions and unable to stay warm this winter.

“Without immediate action, the cost of this crisis will be felt by increased demand on the already overstretched NHS.

“Ultimately, a failure to protect people from living in cold damp homes will cost lives.”

Dr Isobel Braithwaite said: “This data shows a shockingly high prevalence of cold and damp homes in the UK, which poses a grave risk to the public’s health. These conditions are severely harming the health of the most vulnerable in society: from young children; people with heart and lung conditions; to older people, and this situation is unconscionable in 2023.

“These impacts are being driven by political choices, and action is urgently needed to address the causes of this health crisis, both to protect vulnerable households with the campaign’s proposed emergency measures, as well as longer-term action with home retrofit schemes.”

Kay Ballard from Debt Justice who was part of the petition hand-in said: “Lack of government support and energy company profiteering means that this Christmas I have a choice between going into debt or living in a cold damp home. It is an impossible choice and only government action can solve the crisis.”

Matthew McGregor CEO of 38 degrees said: “Our energy system is broken and the Government has so far failed to fix it. Energy bills are twice as high as they were before the energy crisis and they’re set to go up again in January. As we head into an election year, people across the country will be demanding a solution.

“Anyone who wants to form the next Government, must come up with a plan to stop people being trapped in cold, damp homes, and use the extortionate profits of energy companies to pay for it.”

Raymond Bradley a 38 Degrees Supporter who was also a part of the petition hand-in said: “I feel let down by this Government. Each year I am colder, struggling more and with less support. I am blind and the devices I use to help me get through life daily take a lot of electricity to charge. My partner has health issues that means we HAVE to be warm and we’re choosing between heating, charging the devices that help me live my life and eating. It’s no way to live. All I ask from Rishi Sunak and his Government is to fix this broken energy system.”

Stuart Bretherton from Fuel Poverty Action said: “Over 660,000 people have endorsed our demand to ensure everyone’s essential energy needs are met, it’s not radical. There’s more than enough money in energy firm profits and subsidies to guarantee an adequate level of Energy For All to keep everyone warm and safe.”

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6 months ago

Mould, as shown in the picture, is common in most homes from property valued at under a hundred thousand pounds to ones worth millions. Mould is caused by damp air condensating on cold surfaces and turning to smelly mould. If not removed it can cause health problems. A damp cloth with a little diluted bleach mix will easily remove and kill any surface spores. The reason for mould is because we have wrapped our homes up in insulation and double glazing and damp air cannot escape and has no alternative but to condensate on inner surfaces. Our homes have become… Read more »

6 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Hi Frank, you say “People needs to roll up their sleeves instead of blaming councils and landlords for something they should be held responsible for.” How about requiring landlords – be they private or housing associations – to fit vents and efficient extractor fans? I am lucky enough to live in a well-maintained housing association flat (after a very traumatic 6 months in B&B, but that’s another story). The bathroom has no outer wall but the extractor is so efficient that there is never any condensation. Simples!

6 months ago
Reply to  DotiauSyml

Vents, extractor fans are great at preventing mould but opening windows works just as good. Although some landlords are lax at solving problems I still think that people need to use a bit of common sense instead of expecting someone to come around and open the window for them every time they fart because they are too lazy to move from the sofa. Mould is easy to solve and is not a structural defect and in most cases not the landlord or council’s fault.

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