Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Pensioners and young children living in freezing conditions


Recent research by the government has shown that fuel poverty is still on the rise, with National Energy Action – a fuel poverty charity – estimating that in the UK there are over 5.4 million households living in unacceptable conditions. Hyndburn has a particularly high concentration of problem housing, with low levels of insulation and 39% of houses not meeting the government’s Decent Homes Standard.

“With the housing situation the way it is in Hyndburn, it is vital that we do not get complacent this winter. Fuel poverty causes misery and can aggravate health problems, so we must do everything we can to protect those vulnerable members of society who cannot afford to properly heat their homes. Pensioners trapped at home and young children living in freezing private rented accommodation causes me deep worry.”

Fuel poverty is defined as the need for a family to spend more than 10% of their total income on heating their home.

This week saw a rogue landlord in Rossendale charged with leaving a tenant in fuel poverty. Joseph Heyworth was prosecuted after environmental health inspectors described the flat as “barely habitable”. Excess cold is classed as a category 1 hazard – the most severe category – under the Environmental Protection Act. 38.6% of houses in Hyndburn contain hazards of this kind.

National Energy Action argue that fuel poverty is caused by inadequate insulation, low incomes and inflated energy bills – with gas having increased a staggering 139% in the last 7 years. However, NEA have pointed out that there is billions in unclaimed benefits which could work to alleviate the misery of winter with fuel poverty.

Graham Jones said: “There is a staggering amount of unclaimed money which could help a lot of people this winter. Every year pensioners are missing out on £4.2 billion of benefits just because they have not claimed. And in 2008/2009 £12.7 billion of means tested benefits went unclaimed.”

Graham added: “I urge everyone to contact the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 to get help and advice on staying warm in their home this winter without the fear of fuel debt and ill health.”