An Arctic blast is set to batter Britain later this month as a cold front sweeps the UK bringing sub zero temperatures. But while this spells inconvenience for many – for others it can be fatal. Here John Moran, national sales manager explores the perils of poor heating for pensioners.

Winter deaths have reached their highest level in almost 20 years – with the elderly at most risk.

For years campaigners have called for action to end an entirely preventable tragedy that kills more than 3,000 people each year in the UK simply because they cannot afford to properly heat their homes.

As the UK braces for a harsh frost, snow showers and freezing temperatures, we all have a duty to look for solutions to fuel poverty and help those more vulnerable than ourselves.

Making a difference

A not-for-profit plumbing company in Burnley earned worldwide attention recently after it refused to charge an elderly customer for work on her boiler.

A receipt for the work revealed a 91-year-old woman with leukaemia would not be charged “under any circumstances”.

The receipt was shared on social media by the woman’s daughter and has since been liked hundreds of thousands of times.

It’s also propelled plumber James Anderson into the limelight for his altruistic approach to his work.

James has been running Depher – Disabled & Elderly Plumbing and Heating Emergency Repair – as a not-for-profit plumbing company since March 2017.

The company often waives fees for those who cannot afford to pay – and now have a crowdfunding page to help fund the work.

This is a fantastic initiative – one we will be supporting ourselves – but while it can help the few, further education on how to heat a home effectively and access all discounts on fuel bills is needed to reach the masses.

Know your rights

Shocking figures out this week revealed that more than a million pensioners are missing out on a vital £140 discount on their energy bills, as a “worrying number” ration their heating because of cost.

Some elderly people are not aware of the discount, while others are not signed up to an energy supplier that offers it, according to research from Compare the Market.

The Warm Home Discount (WHD) is a one-off £140 payment applied to eligible customers’ electricity bills sometime between October and April. It is designed to help reduce costs for those living on a low income or pension over the winter months.

Not all suppliers participate in the Warm Home Discount scheme, so Age UK has advised pensioners to bear this in mind if considering switching supplier.

More suppliers are being brought into the scheme in 2019-20 and then again in 2020-21, but the charity said it was still important to check before switching.

Time to step up

As well as accessing discounts, the Government should be looking at how to better protect elderly people living in local authority properties with poor heating systems which cost more than they need to.

By introducing adequate public capital investment, they could make the UK’s homes warmer and safer for human habitation.

Additional benefits that would result from preventing fuel poverty include helping the UK meet its carbon-reduction targets, improving air quality and supporting the energy-efficiency industry.

In July the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee put forward a report called Energy efficiency: building towards net zero.

The authors called on the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to commit to stronger regulations on energy efficiency including a commitment to ensure all low-income households are certified as EPC level C by 2030.

To achieve this, it recommended funding a coordinated programme of local schemes to help people implement energy efficiency improvements as well as a nationwide “safety-net” grant for those in particular need.

This is something we would be keen to consult on.

After all, our aim is to make homes as energy-efficient as possible and we manufacture domestic system and combination boilers as well as a combined heat pump and combi boiler in one cased unit which is ideal for both new builds and refurbishments.

This has already been adopted by lots of local authorities working on upgrading their housing stock to make them more energy efficient.

With Fuel Poverty Awareness Day on the horizon we all need to do our bit – even if it is simply looking after our elderly relatives or neighbours when the bad weather hits.

There are too many people suffering needlessly and nobody – especially the most vulnerable in our society – should be in a situation of choosing between food and fuel.