posted by Mark Saunders on 23 January 2012
Current estimates put the level of fuel poverty in the UK at between a quarter and a fifth of all households. The policies of successive governments have failed to halt the remorseless rise in the number of fuel poor households when pitted against the upward creep in energy prices.
This issue has now become a major concern for many organisations who work with those most likely to find heating their homes unaffordable. The cost to the NHS of treating cold related illness is estimated to exceed £1 billion per year. In an effort to improve people’s ability to stay warm affordably; and so stay out of hospital, the Department of Health set up the Warm Homes Healthy People fund. The idea is that fuel poverty being a kind of multi headed hydra needs to be tackled on many fronts.
Oxfordshire made a successful bid to the fund, and the many organisations involved are now setting up services ranging from helping with unaffordable energy bills to food boxes for those who choose to heat and not eat. The partnership are targeting most of the help at the over 60s, a group suffering disproportionately when it comes to fuel poverty.
The problem with previous attempts to tackle this issue was that assistance was a blunt instrument, taking little account of local knowledge or the depth and breadth of local support networks. Oxfordshire Warm Homes Healthy People is by contrast very local, its ability to target help combines the size and reach of the Primary Care Trust with the support and care offered by the charity, public and private sector partners involved.
Well it hasn't been very cold yet I hear you say. True, but we shouldn’t let a mild winter lull us into a false sense of security. It could still get colder, and the very elderly and the least well off don't need a Siberian winter to be fuel poor. You can get more information on assistance available from Oxfordshire Warm Homes Healthy People by calling 0844 887 0005 or by downloading the advice sheet below.
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