Cold comfort for children in poverty
Thursday 20 October 2011
The Hills interim review on fuel poverty released yesterday, whilst very welcome, didn’t say anything new for the people living in fuel poverty.
If anything it reiterated how serious this problem is for many families in poverty in England.
Older people and children were once again seen as being the most vulnerable to the impacts of a cold home.
Cold and health
Health impacts caused by exposure to the cold include cardiovascular and respiratory problems, diminished resistance to infections and, in many cases for older people, death.
The report suggests that between 2004 and 2009 the amount people in fuel poverty would need to spend on energy just to keep their homes warm went up from £740 million to £1.1 billion.
This does not take into consideration the cost of energy from the last three years and the most recent hike in energy costs.
Children feel the brunt
The report also shows that one way to improve fuel poverty for vulnerable families and other groups is to make their homes more energy efficient .
But people on low incomes and in the worst housing cannot afford essential investment to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
The reality for many families in poverty is that they are living in a cold home they cannot afford to heat and their children are bearing the brunt of it.
Poverty rip off
Evidence shows that a cold home has a detrimental effect on the health, well being and educational attainment of children in poverty.
They are going to bed cold, falling ill and missing school, with no comfortable and warm place to do their homework resulting in yet more obstacles for children in poverty to get a fair chance in life.
When we ran our UK Poverty Rip Off campaign in January this year we spoke to families who:
- Could not afford to heat their homes without going into debt
- Were having to choose between heating and eating
- Were turning their heating and hot water off in the cold weather in order to manage the cost of energy.
And this was before the recent rise in energy prices.
This has long since reached a crisis point for many low income families in Britain.
The government and energy companies must take action to ensure that the poorest families can afford to keep warm this winter.