Wednesday, 4 January 2012

No child left in the cold this winter

This winter many families living in poverty are struggling with increased pressures on their household budgets. One of the biggest financial strains they are facing is the rising cost of energy bills. New evidence from Save the Children in the attached report shows that across the UK, children’s well-being and health is being put at risk by rapidly rising energy prices.

Our latest survey found that 45% of parents living in severe poverty are considering cutting back on food in order to pay their energy bills this winter. Almost a third of all parents on the lowest incomes said they won’t be able to afford their winter energy bills even if they cut back on other essentials.

These findings are especially worrying in the context of increasing evidence which shows the negative impact of cold homes on children and especially the poorest children. Homes that are under-heated have a negative impact on the health of children and on the mental health and well-being of adolescents.

According to our survey, 54% of parents on the lowest incomes are worried that their children’s health will suffer because their house will be too cold this winter. The indirect consequences are also significant and relate primarily to lower educational attainment and resilience.


It is crucial, therefore, that action is taken by both the energy companies and the government to reduce the risk of fuel poverty amongst low income families and alleviate the impact of rising energy costs. In our new campaign, No child left in the cold this winter, we’re calling for:
  • The ‘big six’ energy companies to ensure all families eligible for Cold Weather Payments receive the Warm Home Discount. (According to our calculations, in year one of the scheme the maximum number of families in this group that will be helped is 25,000, leaving at least 775,000 without the Warm Home Discount.) 
  • All energy companies to transfer all prepayment meter customers and all customers in debt on their bills onto the cheapest tariff. 
  • The government to support and invest in energy efficient measures as a way to reduce fuel poverty for low income families 
  • The government to continue to recognise that income is crucial to its anti-poverty strategy – boosting the incomes of the poorest families results in positive outcomes across a range of agendas including fuel poverty. 

Save the Children, 1 St John's Lane, London EC1M 4AR For more information please visit www.savethechildren.org.uk

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Thousands of families have missed out on a scheme to help save £120 on home heating costs because of a funding shortfall by energy companies, a charity has warned. According to Save the Children, the Government's scheme for help with bills currently reaches just 3% of families at risk of fuel poverty, because the firms have not committed enough funds this year.

Some of Britain's 800,000 poorest families qualify for a £120 fuel bill discount under the Warm Homes Discount scheme, the charity said - but a "huge" funding shortfall means only 25,000 families will get it. The charity's No Child Left In The Cold campaign is calling on energy companies and the Government to fill this funding gap and improve awareness, so all eligible families receive the discount.

Chief executive Justin Forsyth said: "It's unacceptable that 97% of the UK's poorest families who need help heating their homes this winter will get nothing because energy companies have not put up nearly enough money.

Read on Sky News