Fuel Poverty is a long-standing cause for concern among providers. The extent of the impact that cold or inadequately heated homes can have on a person’s health and wellbeing has been under discussion for a long-time, with medical professionals, government officials, and housing providers eager to understand the true extent of harm caused by Fuel Poverty. But with those in positions of power often being far-removed from the issue, they are too often unaware of the full extent of harm fuel poverty inflicts on already vulnerable tenants, which can lead to a dangerous oversight.
Research shows that Fuel Poverty often works in a cycle — making it difficult or, in some cases, impossible for residents to improve their situation without external support through funding or reduced energy bills. Those on the poverty line are unable to save or to invest in solutions, meaning that often they are forced to choose between living essentials, with some having to choose between feeding themselves or heating their homes. For those just about managing, fuel poverty can prove particularly difficult to escape. This then takes its toll on a resident’s health by increasing stress levels and making them more susceptible to adverse health conditions which adds to their overall costs and puts more pressure on the resident. And on it goes, leaving vulnerable residents feeling isolated and without hope.
One area that is often underestimated is the effect that Fuel Poverty has on family life. For example, young people living in inadequate housing were found to be much more likely to skip school, especially if those children came from a home that was poorly heated. Now while some of this behaviour is to be expected from children and young people, research shows that the increased pressures Fuel Poverty puts on young people can greatly impact their learning and leave them less prepared for adult life. Inadequately heated homes can impact upon concentration levels, making it difficult for children to focus on their studies which can negatively affect their grades and leaves them at a disadvantage when compared to their peers who are living within warm homes.
Living in Fuel Poverty can also greatly impact a person’s health. Cold homes are associated with a range of adverse health risks, with research showing that a cold home can exacerbate existing health conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and slow recovery rates following hospital discharge. The most vulnerable tenants, such as elderly and disabled residents bear the brunt of the harm, with figures from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimating that deaths related to cold homes cost the NHS £1.36bn a year, excluding costs related to social care services. Cold homes also have a devastating effect on residents’ mental wellbeing. Studies carried out by Warm Front show that for resident’s living in inadequately heated homes, the risk of developing conditions such as depression or anxiety increase dramatically. With this in mind, it is no wonder that housing providers are eager to ensure proper heating is accessible to all their tenants, regardless of their economic situation.
But what can be done to minimise these risks?
The use of technology has been beneficial in minimising the harm caused by Fuel Poverty, with devices like Switchee’s Smart Thermostat reducing energy bills by up to 17% for residents. Technology can also allow providers to identify any inefficiencies within their homes and gives them the opportunity to implement proactive solutions. This leads to a warmer home and a reduction in energy wastage which can help alleviate financial pressure from tenants living on the poverty line. In analysing the household data of an individual property, considering the average temperature levels and humidity, providers can better understand the internal property conditions and address any inadequacies before they spiral out of control, thereby reducing the harm caused to residents.