300 people in Cornwall die every year because of the cold weather. Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics indicate that Cornwall is starting to make progress in reducing this tragic number and a partnership between the NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Cornwall Council and Community Energy Plus is working to stop people in Cornwall dying needlessly in the winter.
The Warm Front Scheme offers grants for heating but sometimes these do not cover the full cost of a new heating system and recipients may not be able to make up the shortfall – which is where Community Energy Plus have stepped in.
Since April 2010, using funding from the local Primary Care Trust and Cornwall Council, the charity has provided heating top-up grants totalling almost £44,000 to 66 people suffering from a range of health issues which are aggravated by living in a cold home.
As temperatures drop, the numbers medical appointments and admissions caused by falls and trips, heart conditions and respiratory infections all increase, which is why preventative action is being targeted to help the most vulnerable people in Cornwall to heat their homes this winter.
A further £173,000 has recently been pledged by Cornwall Council to enable Community Energy Plus to offer further funding to ensure that targeted householders in Cornwall have adequate heating and insulation in their property. Over the coming months the charity will be working with front line workers to identify and assist eligible householders in the greatest need.
The heating grants complement the charity’s ‘Warm Me Up!’ fuel poverty project which is supported by the Big Lottery Fund for the next four years to train frontline workers on the issues surrounding fuel poverty and help vulnerable householders reduce and manage their energy bills.
Felicity Owen, Director of Public Health for the Primary Care Trust and Cornwall Council said: “Keeping warm is vital to keeping and staying healthy, particularly for older people and those with long-term health conditions who are particularly susceptible to suffering from ill health if their homes are too cold. We recognise the value of prevention work and the heating top-ups grants are just part of our partnership approach to reduce the number of unnecessary winter deaths.”
Ian Smith, Managing Director of Community Energy Plus said: “As fuel poverty levels in Cornwall have recently reached one in four households, we’re increasingly seeing some of the most vulnerable people making tough choices. Despite the tough economic times, it’s important to remind householders that heating your home to an adequate temperature is essential for health and wellbeing. Our subsidised insulation schemes are there to help householders make their homes more energy efficient and cheaper to run but the heating top-up grants mean that we can target even more support to those in need of extra support to heat their homes.”
Loft and cavity wall insulation is the most effective way of providing householders with warmer homes which are more energy efficient and cheaper to run. Without insulation up to a quarter of a home’s heat can escape through the loft and a third can be lost through the walls. Insulation will also reduce areas of condensation mould which can increase the risk of respiratory illness.
Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for housing Mark Kaczmarek said: “There are households that cannot afford to turn on their heating and there will be many more as fuel prices continue to rise. The lack of sufficient heat and poor insulation contribute to problems with cold, damp and mouldy conditions which in turn affect people’s health. These problems are bound to increase unless help is provided. Cornwall Council is committed to improving conditions and continues to work with its partners to help householders in Cornwall to insulate their homes and experience the financial, health and environmental benefits of reducing their heat loss. Last year we insulated 2737 homes and I hope that many more will be quick to take up this subsidised offer to enjoy warmer and healthier lives.”
Cornwall had 293 unnecessary winter deaths in 2009 which was calculated by comparing the number of deaths occurring in winter with the number occurring in a non-winter period.