Calls for action as cold, damp homes cost lives
Fuel poverty campaigners are demanding action to protect vulnerable people after it was revealed that almost 200 people died in Wales as a result of living in cold, damp homes last winter.
During the winter months of 2021/22 there were 800 excess winter deaths in Wales, with around 170 caused by living in cold damp homes.
Figures calculated by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition using official government data (including that from devolved statistical bodies), puts the total excess winter deaths in the UK for winter 2021/22 at 15,069.
They show that 3,240 of these were as a result of living in cold conditions.
Over the last ten years, the average number of deaths each winter in the UK caused by cold damp homes now stands at 7,409. In Wales, the average annual death toll is 413.
The figures come as members of the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC) and Fuel Poverty Action, backed by the Warm This Winter campaign, held a minute’s silence and funeral march in London in memory of those who have died.
The demonstration follows on from a day of action on fuel poverty coordinated by the Warm This Winter campaign which saw events take place up and down the country in December 2022.
Further “Warm Up” protests are being organised for Saturday 21st January by Fuel Poverty Action.
And amid the fears about the health risks of forced switching to prepayment meters, more than 91,000 people have signed a petition, launched by campaign group 38 Degrees, calling on energy suppliers to end the practice.
On Wednesday, more than 1,700 people also sent personal messages via 38 Degrees to the CEOs of their energy company, urging them to end forced transfer for good.
Bethan Sayed from Climate Cymru said: “The UK and Welsh Government must work together to ensure that we prepare in advance for next winter so that we can avoid such tragic consequences.
“We need more investment in energy efficiency in homes so that people can afford to keep themselves warm, an upscaling of low-cost renewables, so that communities can directly benefit from the energy created in their own backyard, and measures that address eradicating poverty for all.
“A large part of the crisis has been caused by energy firms forcing people onto prepayment meters. Many people rely on energy to power stair lifts, wheelchairs, hearing and respiratory aids as well as the heat, light, refrigeration and connectivity that we all depend on.
“If a prepayment meter then runs out of credit and this equipment can’t be used, it turns energy debt into a death sentence for many.”
Scrooge would be proud. This winter 1000s face getting cut off from heating and electricity because their energy suppliers has forced them onto pre-payment metres. Sign now to tell companies to stop this awful practice. #BanForcedPPMs
— Bethan Sayed (@bethanjenkins) January 20, 2023
Simon Francis, from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, which is also part of the Warm This Winter campaign, said: “The energy bills crisis has its roots in Westminster and the Government’s failure over decades to help us insulate our homes and secure a renewable-led energy grid.
“The cost of this failure is now being felt by the elderly, disabled, those with health conditions and young families. Even in mild winters, we see huge levels of excess winter deaths caused by living in cold damp homes which put our country to shame.
“We need urgent additional financial support for the most vulnerable this winter and next and a significant ramping up of insulation and energy efficiency schemes.”
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