NEA Launch new report into Carbon Monoxide poisoning and fuel poverty
I was pleased to chair a meeting of the APPG on Fuel Poverty launching a report from the NEA.
Their research investigated the relationship between fuel poverty and carbon monoxide (CO) risk in households on low incomes and in vulnerable situations. Over the course of two heating seasons (October to April) in 2015/16 and 2016/17 NEA collected data from 349 households, targeting those on low incomes and with a range of vulnerabilities. The main conclusion to draw from this research is that the factors which cause or expose households to the risk of fuel poverty – low income, poor quality housing and the age and health of occupants – can impact on the heating and servicing behaviours of households to elevate CO risk in homes.
Across the UK, over 4 million households are in fuel poverty, defined as someone who cannot keep their home warm at a reasonable cost.
In my constituency of Easington in North East England 13% of households are classed by Government to be fuel poor. This is 2% higher than in England as a whole, where 11% of households are deemed to be in fuel poverty.
Beyond technical definitions and official measurements however, we know that millions of households across the UK are struggling to afford the energy needed to heat and power their homes.
Those relying on benefits are some of the most vulnerable. I encounter many constituents who have to choose between heating and eating on a daily basis and I expect the problem to become starker this winter as universal credit is rolled out in Easington.
It is therefore of grave concern to me that not only are these households at risk from living in a cold home but they may also be reliant on old and unsafe heating appliances that expose them to carbon monoxide risk and which they cannot afford to replace.
CO gas is known as the “silent killer” – it cannot be seen, smelt or heard. It is estimated that each year in England and Wales acute CO poisoning causes 40 deaths. But many more thousands are exposed to low level poisoning in their homes from faulty or badly fitted gas, oil and solid fuel appliances.
Juliette Burroughs, Policy Analyst at NEA and the report’s author comments: “It is hugely concerning that the most vulnerable members of our society are living in cold homes they are attempting to heat using old and unsafe appliances which can increase CO risk. NEA calls on policymakers and industry to do more, including joining up fuel poverty and CO safety initiatives, supporting households on the lowest incomes to replace old and risky heating appliances and promoting gas suppliers’ Priority Services Registers as a pathway to free gas safety checks”
To read the report: