Read

User menu

Search form

As A Historic Freeze Sweeps Through Britain, Fuel Poverty Claims More Lives

As A Historic Freeze Sweeps Through Britain, Fuel Poverty Claims More Lives
Mon, 3/12/2018 - by Charlotte Dingle

Britain recently experienced the coldest February week in five years as a frozen wind nicknamed “the beast from the east” came in from Russia pushing temperatures as low as -8°C in some areas. This is bad news for the homeless, of course, but also for those who can't afford proper heating in their homes. According to a report published to coincide with Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, fuel poverty now kills more people in the U.K. than breast cancer and prostate cancer.

In fact, researchers from think tank E3G and campaign group National Energy Action found that the U.K. has the sixth highest rate of preventable winter deaths in all 30 European countries. When also taking into account those who die during cold spells outside the winter months, the U.K. ranks second.

Fuel poverty has killed an average of 9,700 people each year over the last five years. High energy costs, lower incomes and homes that aren't energy efficient are all to blame, and campaigners believe the U.K. government is doing far too little to address the crisis.

“The U.K. has one of the worst records on cold homes-related deaths in Europe and it is not only a public health tragedy, it is a national embarrassment,” said E3G's Pedro Guertler, a co-author of the report. “This epidemic is entirely preventable and E3G and NEA are calling on the U.K. Government to reinstate public capital investment in home energy efficiency to fix the cold homes crisis. As well as ending needless suffering and premature deaths, it would also address a wide range of national infrastructure priorities.”

Guertler's co-author, Peter Smith, from the NEA, agrees. “As the U.K. experiences one of the harshest winters for several years, it is important to remember that this causes needless hardship, places health at risk and leads to premature death,” he said. Smith pointed out the mental as well as physical stress that fuel poverty can cause.

“Fuel poverty can sadly lead to total social isolation and even suicide. This preventable tragedy must end. The U.K. Government must support the strong case for the re-introduction of adequate public capital investment – a necessity if we are to make the U.K.’s homes warmer and safe for human habitation," he added.

Sophie, who goes by a different name, is one of those people affected by fuel poverty, both physically and mentally. Like the majority of people suffering from fuel poverty in Britain, she rents from a private landlord. Private landlords are already poorly regulated and may be further deregulated by the Residential Landlords Association, which has already fought to reduce a cap on landlord spending from £5,000 to £2,500.

“I’m one of the ‘working poor,’” Sophia told Occupy.com. “I’m on a low wage and have two children, so I claim Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits. Unfortunately this income just isn’t enough to cover everything, so I often go without so my children don’t suffer. I worry constantly that they aren’t having the childhood they deserve.”

Recent analysis from the NEA shows shocking numbers of children affected by fuel poverty, with around 430,000 children in England and Wales currently living in underheated homes. “It’s pretty obvious that the worst landlords will act only if they are required to,” says NEA Chief Executive Adam Scorer.

“Government has the chance to take many thousands of children out of the worst impacts of fuel poverty. If it does not, then it will be most vulnerable children in our communities who will continue to pay the price. Frankly, that is simply unacceptable.”

To avoid paying the high cost of energy, Sophie said she frequently turns her heating off while her children are out. Much like Elaine Morrall, who tragically died of cold at the end of last year while battling to keep her disability benefits, Elaine failed to attend three appointments for Employment Support Allowance because she had been in intensive care. Cuts to disability benefits and draconian attempts by the government to push more people off them have provoked a worrying upturn in deaths among the disabled due to fuel poverty.

The elderly are another group disproportionately affected by fuel poverty. With many struggling to survive on meagre state pensions, spiraling fuel costs mean that they're at risk of flu, respiratory and chest infections. Older people who have limited social circles may suffer in silence until it is too late. Charity Age U.K. estimates that one elderly person will die every seven seconds this winter for reasons related to fuel poverty.

The government cannot stop the cold snap, but it can take greater measures to ensure that everyone lives in a properly heated home. Unfortunately, the Tories' obsession with privatization means that public capital investment is at a low – even in cases of life and death. There are wider implications, too. Not only does fuel poverty kill, it also puts strain on a National Health Service that is already at breaking point and under threat of privatization. It is not the beast from the east we should fear, but the Leviathan at home.

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Restoring Internet Freedom Order, FCC rules, net neutrality, Internet freedom, fast line, Big Telecom, telecommunications industry, Ajit Pai

Access matters, and unequal access can have onerous consequences for those who can’t afford the fast lane.

Brexit, Brexit opposition, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, no-deal Brexit

“This historic defeat will show that the government is deadlocked – and we now need to throw this back to the people and give them a final say," said Paul Butters of Best for Britain.

manosphere, incels, misogyny, black men, black women, racism, sexism, Black Manosphere

In response to the racism often targeted exclusively toward black men on majority white digital spaces, black males have created their own manosphere – where they rail against black women.

Act Out! [187] - How Police Are A Public Health Issue + Extinction Rebellion’s Move To Save Humanity

First up, Policing is a public health issue. Next, Extinction Rebellion wants to save humanity. Here's how they're going about it.

#MeToo, #MeTooIndia, male abusers, misogny, women coming forward, naming accusers, Indian feminist movement, Indian sex abusers, sexual abuse

It may have taken a full year for the #MeToo movement to reach India, but the storm has hit – and loudly.

Restoring Internet Freedom Order, FCC rules, net neutrality, Internet freedom, fast line, Big Telecom, telecommunications industry, Ajit Pai

Access matters, and unequal access can have onerous consequences for those who can’t afford the fast lane.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Medioimages/Photodisc/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

By doing away with single-family zoning, the city takes on high rent, long commutes, and racism in real estate in one fell swoop.

Brexit, Brexit opposition, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, no-deal Brexit

“This historic defeat will show that the government is deadlocked – and we now need to throw this back to the people and give them a final say," said Paul Butters of Best for Britain.

Protesters on Sunday in Katowice, which is hosting the UN climate conference. Photograph: Sadak Souici/Le Pictorium/Barcroft Images

The move shocked delegates at a UN conference in Poland as ministers flew in for the final week of climate talks.

rising emissions, climate catastrophe, Global Carbon Project, climate impacts, carbon emissions, carbon cuts

According to a new Global Carbon Project report, emissions are heading in the opposite direction to the deep cuts that are urgently needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

manosphere, incels, misogyny, black men, black women, racism, sexism, Black Manosphere

In response to the racism often targeted exclusively toward black men on majority white digital spaces, black males have created their own manosphere – where they rail against black women.

Posted 5 days 1 hour ago
#MeToo, #MeTooIndia, male abusers, misogny, women coming forward, naming accusers, Indian feminist movement, Indian sex abusers, sexual abuse

It may have taken a full year for the #MeToo movement to reach India, but the storm has hit – and loudly.

Posted 6 days 15 hours ago
Act Out! [187] - How Police Are A Public Health Issue + Extinction Rebellion’s Move To Save Humanity

First up, Policing is a public health issue. Next, Extinction Rebellion wants to save humanity. Here's how they're going about it.

Posted 5 days 14 hours ago
Minds, anti-Facebook, crypto social network, surveillance programs, social media addiction

Now is the time to defend the remnants of the Information Revolution. Take off the corporate gag, close the social media surveillance blinds, and shift.

Posted 5 days 1 hour ago
Yanis Varoufakis, Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders, Sanders Institute, Progressive International, global left, populist movements, rising authoritarianism

"Our Progressive International will reclaim our communities, our cities, our countries, and our planet with a bold International New Deal that we will work, together, to deliver."

Posted 6 days 15 hours ago
rising inequality, income inequality, global wealth, costs of inequality

Americans pay a steep price for not spreading their wealth around as well as other developed countries.

Minds, anti-Facebook, crypto social network, surveillance programs, social media addiction

Now is the time to defend the remnants of the Information Revolution. Take off the corporate gag, close the social media surveillance blinds, and shift.

rising emissions, climate catastrophe, Global Carbon Project, climate impacts, carbon emissions, carbon cuts

According to a new Global Carbon Project report, emissions are heading in the opposite direction to the deep cuts that are urgently needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Scott Walker, Wisconsin GOP, Wisconsin protests

Michigan’s Republican-led legislature is also trying to disempower the state’s newly-elected Democratic governor.

Yanis Varoufakis, Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders, Sanders Institute, Progressive International, global left, populist movements, rising authoritarianism

"Our Progressive International will reclaim our communities, our cities, our countries, and our planet with a bold International New Deal that we will work, together, to deliver."