Opinion Former Article

NEA: Project's bid For warmer, healthier children

A national fuel poverty initiative has received £60,000 in a bid to improve the lives of thousands of vulnerable youngsters across the country.

National Energy Action (NEA) and Energy Action Scotland (EAS), received the grant from the ScottishPower Energy People Trust to fund a three year project called Warmer, Healthier Children.

Beginning in August, help will be offered to over 11,000 families across the UK by delivering vital training sessions on fuel poverty related issues to a wide range of agencies working directly with vulnerable families and children.

Jenny Saunders, Chief Executive of NEA, said: "The poorest in society are often the ones who end up paying more for the basics of heating and eating. They are the ones who are suffering most from the rising fuel bills which are hitting every family in the UK, and sadly it is their children who are most affected.

"NEA estimates that of England's 3.75 million fuel-poor households, around 643,600 contain dependent children. This amounts to more than 1 million children living in fuel poverty in England alone (May 2009)."

Cold, damp homes affect children's health increasing the risk of common ailments like colds and flu, respiratory infections such as bronchitis, as well as making them more vulnerable to allergies. Cold homes also increase the time taken to recover from other illnesses so that children may be absent from school/ nursery more often, affecting their education and development.

Living in fuel poverty causes excessive stress for both children and adults and can lead to long-term depression and anxiety.

The project proposes to work with family agencies such as SureStart and single parent support groups, disability organisations, and young people's peer groups with aims to enable agency workers to communicate energy efficiency issues effectively, raising awareness and understanding of the impact of poor housing conditions on the health of children and young people.

The ScottishPower Energy People Trust was established in November 2005 to fund not-for-profit organisations that help vulnerable people including families, young people, the disabled and the elderly who need to spend more than 10% of their income on energy bills.

Ann Loughrey, ScottishPower's Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and The ScottishPower Energy People Trust's Company Secretary said:

"NEA's previously funded project, SMILE, made a huge difference to the lives of many in England so we are delighted that NEA has built on its success and with EAS has expanded the project to reach out to many more children across Britain with the Warmer, Healthier Children project.

"Fuel poverty affects millions of households across the country so any assistance we can provide through our Trust is essential. By providing vital training on advising how to avoid fuel poverty is an effective method of reducing the issue - especially when it's directed towards organisations, like SureStart and Gingerbread, who work closely with vulnerable people."

The advice given will range from help on grant availability and energy efficiency schemes, the effects on health of living in cold, damp homes, tips on energy efficiency and what to do if you get into fuel debt.

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