Insulation on prescription?
Fuel poverty is becoming a topic more frequently discussed; in the news, and in politics. With the general election now only weeks away and the campaigning starting in full we are watching with interest what the different manifestos are going to be saying about fuel poverty and the best methods of alleviating this.
There are a number of reasons to support measures to alleviate fuel poverty; social, economic and environmental. There have been many reports in the national press (The Telegraph) about the link between health and warmth in homes. The recent publication of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group Report 2014 shows some of the costs of cold homes, including the following figures;
- Cold homes are estimated to burden the NHS with costs of £1.36 billion per annum.
- It is also a known contributor to the 25,000 ‘excess winter deaths’ per year in England and Wales.
So will doctors be prescribing insulation to help save lives?
A pilot scheme in Sunderland last year (The Guardian) suggested that measures to improve energy ratings of homes had a major effect on the quality of life of the residents, and a reduction in the number of visits to their GP or hospital.
One of the measures that the previous Government has put in place is a new law which sets out regulatory requirement for “as many fuel poor homes as is reasonably practicable achieve a minimum energy efficiency standard of Band C by 2030” and a strategy for interim targets by 2020 and 2025.
Improving the energy efficiency of homes is a key aspect of alleviating fuel poverty, but this has to involve a fabric first approach – even if the most energy efficient, ‘environmentally friendly’ boiler is fitted, it will still be expensive to run if all the heat is lost through the walls and the roof – wasting all that efficiency.
So let’s hope that the link between energy efficiency and health is one that will work its way through into policy whichever colour of government comes into power after 7th May.
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