Opinion Former Article

NEA: Campaigners fear for children in fuel poverty as winter approaches

The leading national fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action (NEA), warns that the health of hundreds of thousands of children is at risk from cold homes this winter.

NEA research shows how, in England, the number of dependent children in fuel poor homes has risen from 220,000 in 2003 to 750,000 last year. This increase, coupled with news of rising fuel costs later this year, will increase the suffering for poor children across the UK.

The warning comes as NEA prepares to run its own Warm Homes Campaign, the annual winter awareness campaign, which launches on Monday (November 19). NEA is launching the campaign to complement the Campaign to End Child Poverty's Month of Action, which concludes on 21 November.

NEA is a supporter of the campaign, which works to highlight the unacceptably high levels of child poverty in the UK and urges the Government to keep to its pledge of halving child poverty by 2010.

NEA's Warm Homes Campaign aims to raise awareness of the plight of households, many of which include families with children, who cannot afford to heat their homes adequately. It is sponsored by eaga, who manage the Government's energy efficiency scheme - Warm Front.

Living in cold, damp homes can have a significant impact on children and their families:

  • It can increase the risk of asthma, a rapidly growing problem among children in particular, with approximately 1.1m children in the UK, currently receiving treatment for the condition. Respiratory illnesses are almost three times more widespread than any other long-term childhood disease in the UK.
  • It can affect children's health, increasing the risk of common ailments like colds and flu, and respiratory infections such as bronchitis, as well as making them more vulnerable to allergies.
  • It can affect children's educational attainment, with children finding it difficult to complete homework in homes where only one room may be adequately heated and more liable to miss school due to cold-related illnesses.
  • It can increase feelings of social exclusion, with children often too embarrassed to invite friends back to a cold home.

Jenny Saunders, NEA Chief Executive, said: "For millions of families and individuals, winter brings poor health, isolation, debt and worry. We believe that this is unacceptable. The Warm Homes Campaign aims to highlight the effects of fuel poverty and to offer positive and practical solutions to the problem.

"During the month of campaign activity, which launches during the Campaign to End Child Poverty's Month of Action, we will be urging Government to recognise the effects escalating energy costs have had on fuel-poor households and provide extra resources to help lift people out of fuel poverty and protect them from any future increases in energy prices."

Hilary Fisher, Director of the Campaign to End Child Poverty said: "There are currently 3.8 million children living in poverty in the UK, 1.3 million of them in households earning £7,000 per year or less. We know what poverty does to children and their families, we know that shorter days and colder nights creates even more hardship. The Government must act soon to keep its pledge to millions of children by providing the £4 billion necessary to help reach the 2010 target of halving child poverty in the UK."

Jenny added: "The key message during our Warm Homes Campaign is that there is help available. Call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699 and find out about the benefits of energy efficiency in helping you beat rising energy costs and staying warm and well this winter. Or for more information about grants to help keep your home warm, call freephone 0800 316 6014."

Ashley Guise, Divisional Managing Director for eaga, who are sponsoring the Warm Homes Campaign, said: "With winter deaths and poor health still being caused simply because people are living in cold and damp homes this is an extremely important campaign and eaga is only too happy to lend its support. Making homes warmer, dryer and healthier changes lives for the better and for the long term."

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

1. NEA is a supporter of the campaign to End Child Poverty. Together we are participating in the Month of Action and calling on the Government to deliver the resources needed to end child poverty, once and for all. Visit www.endchildpoverty.org.uk to find out more.

2. The Campaign to End Child Poverty is a coalition of more than 90 organisations working to eradicate child poverty in the UK. It is formed from children's and other charities, social justice groups, faith-groups, trade unions and others concerned about the unacceptably high levels of child poverty in the UK. www.endchildpoverty.org.uk. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of all members.

3. NEA and Energy Action Scotland are the national charities that tackle the heating and insulation problems of low-income households through improved energy efficiency. Fuel poverty is defined as spending more than 10% of household income on fuel costs. The Warm Homes Campaign is NEA and Energy Action Scotland's annual campaign targeted at the public and the country's decision makers to raise awareness of fuel poverty and the benefits of improved energy efficiency.

4. As part of the Warm Homes Campaign, NEA organises activities for Members of Parliament throughout England. In Scotland, NEA works with Energy Action Scotland, which is co-ordinating visits for Members of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish MPs. Between Friday 23 November and Monday 3 December 2007 a range of seminars, events and activities, arranged by NEA and its member organisations, will involve people on low incomes, energy companies, local authorities and voluntary sector and consumer organisations.

5. eaga is the UK's largest residential energy efficiency provider. The company is a leader in the provision of innovative and sustainable services, products and solutions that address the environmental, social and energy efficiency objectives of Government and the private sector both nationally and internationally.

6. Working in partnership with central and local government eaga is positioned at the heart of policy-making and front-end delivery of social and environmental improvement programmes. eaga operates across the UK and in the Republic of Ireland, India and Canada employing over 3,500 people.

7.eaga was established in Newcastle in 1990 to lead government funded efforts to mprove the living conditions of vulnerable people living in cold, damp and energy inefficient homes across England. Since its inception, eaga has made a positive difference to over 5 million disadvantaged households across the UK, by installing energy efficiency measures.

8. Warm Front in England is the primary source of grants for energy efficiency improvements for households on low incomes. Warm Front offers the prospect of lower bills and increased warmth for the elderly, people with disabilities, lone-parent families and other vulnerable households. For more information about Warm Front call freephone 0800 3166014. This scheme only covers owner-occupiers and private sector tenants.

For a Warm Homes Campaign press pack, please click on: http://www.nea.org.uk/downloads/warmhomesweek/Press_Pack_2007_(final_Oct_07).pdf or contact David Bootle, NEA Press Officer, on 0191 261 5677 or david.bootle@nea.org.uk

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