|Only yesterday I flagged up the Wales’ Government’s Fuel Poverty programme – NEST.Today, the news emphasises just how inadequate attempts to solve the problem have been in Wales to date:
Here are the levels of fuel poverty by region, with the percentage of people affected and the average household energy bill over the year:
1. Wales, 32%, £1,312.
The problem with NEST, and its predecessor HEES, is that it is money made available for people that know that it is available. Efforts to promote the schemes to those that need them are virtually non-existent and rely on people like us, in the Green Party, and charitable organisations like Groundwork, to get out and try to ensure people get what they are entitled to receive.
Fuel poverty has a significant impact on the health, social and economic well-being of householders. It also impacts on the resources of public sector services, such as the NHS, through increasing the need for householders to access services or increasing the level of support they require. By reducing the risk of householders living in fuel poverty in Wales we can help reduce the negative impact on peoples lives and the pressure on public services.
By tackling fuel poverty, we will make a contribution in tackling the following negative impacts:
Increased respiratory illnesses including asthma.
Increased blood pressure and risk of heart attack and stroke (cardiovascular disease).
Increased levels of slips, trips and falls, particularly in older people as cold can reduce mobility and cause a worsening in the symptoms of arthritis.
Stress and mental health issues driven by concerns over bills and/or energy debt.
Increased pressure and cost on health and care services.
Fuel poverty contributes to excess winter deaths: (ONS data)
- There were an estimated 25,700 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2010/11, virtually unchanged from the previous winter
- As in previous years, there were more excess winter deaths in females than in males in 2010/11
- Between 2009/10 and 2010/11 male excess winter deaths increased to 11,200, but female deaths fell to 14,400
- The majority of deaths occurred among those aged 75 and over; however, deaths in this age group fell between 2009/10 and 2010/11, whereas deaths in persons aged under 75 increased
- The excess winter mortality index was highest in Wales in 2010/11, whereas in the two previous winters it was highest in the South East of England
Fuel Poverty impacts on education achievement where only one room may be properly heated, resulting in the lack of a quiet, warm space to study or increased levels of absenteeism as a result of sickness.
Fuel Poverty can increase social isolation because of a reluctance to invite friends into a cold, damp home.
High fuel bills leave householders with less money available for food, other day to day expenses and social activity.
Fuel poverty impacts negatively on the economy because of increased levels of sickness.
Tackling fuel poverty and reducing the amount of money spent on energy bills can have positive effects on local regeneration because people have more money to spend in the local economy. The key element of official Green Party Policy is:
EN400 The distribution mains for electricity and gas will be brought into a fully accountable public sector. Energy production would be a mixture of public and private enterprises.
Only by bringing the control of the the energy infrastructure, and strict regulation of the energy markets, into public hands can we stop the energy companies profiteering (in the news yet again today: http://www.guardian.co.UK/business/2011/DEC/02/energy-firms-accusations-profiteering-electricity?newsfeed=true ) at the expense of the fuel poor. It is also the only way we are going to re-structure the energy mix we use to become truly sustainable; alongside the only way forward, in terms of alleviating fuel poverty, that we currently have – i.e. making our homes more energy efficient.