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Campaign warns 1 in 10 pensioner households in England go cold this winter

CAMPAIGNERS are warning that almost one in ten pensioner households in England cannot afford to heat their homes in winter putting them at risk of serious health problems and contributing to one of the worst winter death records in Northern Europe.

Despite having milder winters than some of our Northern European neighbours, there were more than 25,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales last winter 2005-6.

The Warm Homes Campaign, the annual winter campaign, aims to raise awareness of the plight of those households who cannot afford to heat their homes adequately.

It also aims to increase awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency in reducing the numbers of these fuel-poor households and of the availability of grant aid to low-income households.

The campaign is organised by energy efficiency charity National Energy Action (NEA) in association with Powergen, part of E.ON UK.

William Gillis, NEA Chief Executive, said: 'For almost 1.5 million pensioner households in England[2] winter brings poor health, isolation, debt and worry. We have one of the worst excess winter death rates in Northern Europe and fuel poverty and poorly insulated homes are major contributors to these deaths.

'During the Warm Homes Campaign, I urge anyone who is worried about heating their home this winter, or anyone who has elderly friends, neighbours or relatives who may struggle at this time of year, to contact the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699 for advice. Or for more information about grants to help keep your home warm, call freephone 0800 3166011 and quote MK 550.'  

Around one in 10 pensioner households[3] in England meet the definition of fuel poverty because they need to spend more than 10 per cent of their income to keep their home warm. However, many simply can't afford to spend this much on fuel bills and face falling into debt with their energy supplier, or spending the winter in a cold, inadequately heated home, or cutting back on other essentials such as food and clothing.

Cold homes are especially dangerous for older people, increasing the risk of heart disease, strokes, respiratory illnesses - such as asthma and bronchitis - and common ailments like colds and flu as well as increasing the likelihood of falls and other accidents.  Half of the winter deaths are due to cardiovascular disease and a third are due to respiratory diseases two conditions closely linked to cold homes.

In recent years the Government has introduced Winter Fuel Payments and Pension Credit, which, coupled with targeted energy efficiency grant schemes, have contributed to a fall in the number of pensioner households in fuel poverty. However, around 30 per cent of pensioners who are eligible for Pension Credit have still not applied and up to 1.8 million aren't claiming Council Tax Benefit.[4]

Many of the state benefits older people are missing out on are so called passport benefits, such as Income Support and Housing Benefit. Once in receipt of these benefits many would qualify for free insulation and heating measures under the Government's Warm Front scheme.

There are still around 700,000 pensioner households without central heating in England and Wales. NEA believes a nationwide central heating scheme for all pensioner households, regardless of whether they are receiving benefits, would ensure that every older person is protected from the worst effects of cold homes during winter. 

There is help available for people who are worried about how they are going to afford to heat their home this winter. During the Warm Homes Campaign, anyone who is worried about keeping warm this winter should:

  • Contact their energy supplier and ask about the Priority Service Register. Open to pensioners, people with disabilities and the chronically sick, the free service offers amongst other things large print bills and a free annual gas safety check.
  • Contact Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699.
  • Check you have adequate heating and insulation in your home. For owner occupiers and private sector tenants, Warm Front, the Government-funded grant scheme, provides a range of free heating and insulation measures for the elderly, people with disabilities, lone-parent families and other vulnerable households. Phone the free helpline on 0800 3166011 and quote MK 550 to see if you qualify for assistance.

Powergen's Garry Worthington, Social & Environmental Affairs Manager said: 'Powergen is committed to helping people achieve affordable warmth in their homes.  Earlier this year we launched the '100m CaringEnergy scheme to provide vulnerable customers with free energy efficiency measures and advice, as well as, advice on payments, tariffs and income maximisation.

'We're delighted to be supporting Warm Homes campaign for the second year to raise awareness of the help we can give in improving the comfort of homes and in reducing energy bills through better energy efficiency.' 

1.       Fuel poverty is defined as the need to spend more than 10% of household income on fuel costs. The Warm Homes Campaign is NEA'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.

2.      The Warm Homes Campaign is organised by NEA and Energy Action Scotland in association with energy supplier Powergen, part of E.ON UK, and supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in England.

3.    Powergen is part of E.ON UK, the UKs largest integrated electricity and gas company generating and distributing electricity and retailing power and gas, and employing around 14,000 people in the UK.  It is part of the E.ON Group the world's largest investor'owned power and gas company.

4.      Powergen's 100m CaringEnergy scheme, launched earlier this year, has been designed to support and protect vulnerable customers over the next three years, by improving the energy efficiency of their homes, reducing energy bills and increasing household income with a range of products and services, which include free insulation and Benefits Entitlement Checks.  For further information customers should call free on 0800 051 1480 or email

5.      Powergen is the only energy supplier to offer two products specifically for older customers, through its StayWarm and Age Concern tariffs.  Powergen also offers a range of free and discounted energy efficiency measures for all of its customers.  For free energy efficiency advice customers should call 0500 20 10 00

6.      As part of the Warm Homes Campaign, NEA organises activities for Members of Parliament throughout England and Assembly Members in Wales. In Scotland, NEA works with Energy Action Scotland, who are which is co-ordinating visits for Members of the Scottish Parliament and Westminster MPs. Between Friday 24 November and Thursday 7 December 2006 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.

7.      Government has committed to ending fuel poverty among pensioner households in England by 2010.

8.      Excess winter mortality is defined by the Office for National Statistics as the difference between the number of deaths during the four winter months (December to March) and the average number of deaths during the preceding autumn (August to November) and the following summer (April to July).

9.      Warm Front in England and the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme in Wales are the primary source of grants for energy-efficiency improvements to those on low incomes. Warm Front and HEES Wales offer 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 3166011 and quote MK 550. For more information about HEES Wales call freephone 0800 316 2815.

For a Warm Homes Campaign press pack or details on MPs'activities around the country, contact David Bootle, NEA Press Officer, on 0191 261 5677 or



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