1 year ago



The data and percentage

The data and percentage figures, however, do not spell out the reality for the millions of people affected, the unacceptable hardship caused to low income and vulnerable households. Most EAPN networks, include member organizations who provide face to face debt advice services. In Germany, EAPN member organizations have seen growing incidences of cut offs. The German example below highlights the complexity of factors in play, affecting people’s management of their household budgets. “More and more people come to our non-for-profit advice centres because of letters they have received threatening disconnection from the power supply. In 2014, the Federal Network Agency and the Federal Cartel Office stated that 352 000 cut offs took place. The number of threats of disconnection was 6.3 million. These threatening letters were sent to households who were only in arrears for €100 …” (EAPN Germany) The level of disconnections, and lack of unified approach to ban cut offs and protect vulnerable people, around the most basic of human rights, is clearly an unacceptable face of the Energy Union. 3. Deteriorating health, including mental health “My room, and the whole ceiling is damp. If I just look right from the bed the whole entire walls are covered in damp, and I’m there in bed, freezing cold.” (EAPN, 2010-2016) An increasing number of studies demonstrate the severity of the impact of energy poverty on the health for different groups. Most often this is due to living in cold, bad housing. People on low incomes are often forced to cut back on heating because of cost, or to switch to less healthy forms. Poor construction compounds the problems. This results is not only deteriorating health and well-being, but significant indirect impacts. In the UK, where mortality is measured and the links to bad housing, 25 000 to 40 000 people die each year. The WHO data show that Excessive Winter Mortality (EWM) is not connected with climate – i.e. it is not in the coldest countries. For example, EWM does not exist in St Petersburg, but does reach 10.77% in Paris, 20.28% in London and 30.00% in Glasgow (EPEE Project, 2009). In Scotland, the excessive mortality figures for 2014-15 are 4060 people, the highest level for 15 years (National Records of Scotland, 2016). The rate of deaths in winter is strongly linked to the quality of the housing and capacity to heat it adequately. The Marmot Review highlights that there is a strong relationship between cold temperatures, humidity and cardio-vascular and respiratory diseases. Around 40% of Excessive Winter Deaths (EWD) are attributable to cardiovascular diseases and around 33% of EWDs to respiratory diseases (Marmot Review Team, May 2011). Many households also resort to ‘substitute’ cheaper heaters which may increase humidity problems and cause accidents, for example, carbon monoxide poisoning. Different age and household groups are also affected in different ways. In the EPEE study, a clear finding was that fuel poverty impacts first and hardest on the health of the most vulnerable – children, elderly people and people with chronic conditions (EPEE Project, 2009). “The children have no heating in winter, they live in unhealthy conditions.” (EAPN, 2010-2016) This is further seen in the Marmot Review: children living in cold homes are more than twice as likely to suffer from a variety of respiratory problems than children living in warm homes. Significant negative effects of cold housing are also evident in terms of infants’ weight gain, hospital admission rates, developmental status, and the severity and frequency of asthmatic symptoms. When it comes to older people the effects of cold housing were evident in terms of higher mortality risk, but also worsening of conditions of arthritis and rheumatism (Marmot Review Team, May 2011). It’s not just physical health that is affected. People in fuel poverty are particularly susceptible to mental health problems. Living in cold housing causes anxiety, can lead to social exclusion and isolation, can have a negative impact on self-esteem and the capacity to manage (EPEE Project, 2009). The Marmot Review highlights that more than 1 in 4 adolescents living in cold housing are at risk of multiple mental health problems compared to 1 in 20 adolescents who have always lived in warm housing. 32 SOCIAL CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF ENERGY POVERTY SOCIAL CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF ENERGY POVERTY 33

4. Indirect health impacts and on the economy The indirect impacts are also significant. The Marmot Review highlights that cold housing and fuel poverty negatively affects children’s educational attainment at school, but also their emotional well-being and resilience. They find it more difficult to study, and to be motivated, and this can lead to a greater feeling of helplessness. Energy poverty can also increase social isolation. Worrying about going out and coming back to a cold home. This can also lead to avoiding inviting anybody back home, resulting in a general retreat and exclusion from the world. “You may be a bit shy to invite your friends over because when they come in they’ll be freezing and they might want to leave early.” (People Experiencing Poverty Meeting, 2014) A further impact can be on employment. Health problems can lead to more days off sick from flu and colds, as well as for more serious illnesses. It can also have an undermining impact on people’s self-esteem, particularly if they are not always able to have hot showers or baths, or wash their clothes. All crucial activities when trying to get or stay in a job. Finally, the social impact has economic costs. In 2009, UK Government policy documents and reports, including the Chief Medical Officer report of 2009 and Public Health White Paper, recognised the tangible impact of cold housing and fuel poverty on people’s health and well-being. The Chief Medical Officer Report also went on to underline the enormous economic impact. “The annual cost to the NHS of treating winter-related disease due to cold private housing is £859 million. This does not include additional spending by social services, or economic losses through missed work. The total costs to the NHS and the country are unknown. A recent study showed that investing £1 in keeping homes warm saved the NHS 42 pence in health costs.” (Chief Medical Officer Report, 2009) poverty arise because of a fundamental mismatch between income, expenditure and services. Having an adequate income throughout the life cycle, from decent jobs or adequate social protection, combined with affordable goods and services, can provide the basis for a dignified life. Ensuring that people’s income is adequate enough for their needs, depends on the price of the goods and services they need to buy. Making sure that there is a fair match between incomes and expenditure on essential services, cannot be left to the market alone. Only governments can promote fair distribution and redistribution policies that can ensure that basic rights are guaranteed, no one gets left behind, and close the inequality gap. Tackling energy poverty is fundamentally linked to what kind of economic development and society we want. This is a choice between an economy aiming to reduce inequality, promote social justice and sustainable development or prioritizing only market-led growth, without concerns about winners and losers. In a situation where the continual deepening of the internal market for energy services is the main driver of policy, through liberalization and privatisation, public service obligations to ensure accessible, affordable, quality services as fundamental rights, are easily trampled on. The right to affordable energy, as a basic human entitlement, where no person can be deprived of a minimum service, must be asserted together with integrated solutions which tackle low incomes, promote fair prices and affordable, quality, energy- efficient housing, particularly through social housing. This is essential to ensure everybody a life in dignity, and a fundamental pre-requisite for a more inclusive and sustainable economy and society. conclusion: the right to affordable and sustainable energy for all Understanding the complexity and interconnectedness of the causes and consequences of energy poverty is crucial to build effective solutions. But this depends on taking account of structural causes. Problems of energy 34 SOCIAL CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF ENERGY POVERTY SOCIAL CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF ENERGY POVERTY 35

Understanding Fuel Poverty - CARDI
Fuel Poverty Strategy publication - South Ayrshire Council
A review of Fuel Poverty and Low Income Housing, 2002
Handbook on Poverty and Inequality - ISBN: 9780821376133
Energy Poverty
UK Fuel Poverty Monitor
London’s Poverty Profile 2015
Still cold