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  • Jade Price

What are the actual effects of fuel poverty on social housing?

In 2019, 3.18 million homes in England were in fuel poverty. A further 613,000 households were fuel poor in Scotland and 155,000 households in Wales. A large portion of these households exist in Social Housing settings.

There were approximately 4 million households across the UK unable to heat their homes adequately through winter 2019, but what are the actual effects of this?

Effect on health

Fuel poverty, through living in homes which are too cold, can contribute to health issues such as respiratory diseases, heart diseases, circulatory diseases, and mental health problems. This directly links to excess winter deaths, repeat visits to GPs and hospital admissions.

During cold weather resistance to respiratory infection and lung function is lowered, leading to an increase in respiratory illness and reactions to existing health conditions such as asthma. This can be seen in studies that have found that visits to GPs for respiratory tract infections increase 19% for every 1 degree drop below 5 degrees. The average UK temperature in the winter months is between 0-7degrees, meaning that those in fuel poverty are at a very high risk of these health issues.

Further to this, research suggests that deaths for cardiovascular disease is 22.9% higher in winter months than at any other time of year. When temperatures fall below 12 degrees circulation is affected, blood pressure is raised, and the risk of heart attacks and strokes is heightened.

There is clear evidence linking home temperatures with mental health. Evaluation of the governments Warm Home Scheme found that an increase in room temperature was associated with a reduced likelihood of experiencing depression and anxiety. Further to this another study found that children and young adults living in cold homes were more at risk of multiple mental health symptoms.

Excess Winter Deaths

As mentioned above, Fuel poverty directly links to excess winter deaths. It is estimated in winter 2019/20 there were 28,300 excess winter deaths in England and Wales, a rise of 19.6% on the year previous.

Effect on the housing provider

Cold homes lead to excess condensation and ultimately damp and mould issues. Damp and mould are factors that are noted by the Fitness for Human Habitation Act and therefore are grounds for a claim.

You can find out more about the real cost of these claims and how to avoid them here:

Looking Forward

With the energy price cap increasing on the 1st October, about 15 million households will see a 12% rise in their energy bills. This will force more households into fuel poverty and those already affected further into poverty, in what is being called a perfect poverty storm.

Whilst fuel poverty is a public health concern, it is also a concern for social housing providers as a large proportion of those in poverty live in social housing settings.

How we can help

Vericon collates information from the boiler, thermostats and MultiDots to understand the temperature the heating is set to, the boiler activity (both heating and hot water) along with temperature and humidity throughout the property. By interrogating the information our clients will be able to see:

· If there is activity within the property, from the use of hot water

· If the temperature is set too low suggesting the customer has turned the heating down

· If the customer turns the heating down when it starts up

· If the temperature is rising in a single room without boiler activity which suggests the customer is surviving on the heat from alternative sources such as gas fires, or electric heaters.

By using Vericon’s connected technologies, social housing providers can ensure their tenants are safe and warm using data and can implement strategies to help those most vulnerable.

Do you know if your tenants are in fuel poverty? We can help, get in touch to find out more

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