Better Housing, Better Health is a new service to help those whose health is affected by living in cold or damp homes. It has been launched by the National Energy Foundation, who will be working in partnership with eleven local authorities across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and with funding from the British Gas Energy Trust.
Cold homes cost the NHS in England £1.36bn every year in hospital and primary care expenditures. In addition, during the winter of 2014-15, there were an estimated 43,900 deaths in England and Wales caused by cold weather, the highest number since 1999-00. There are fundamental problems behind this; the government’s latest Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report estimated that in 2013 there were 2.35m households living in fuel poverty in England.
Better Housing, Better Health aims to reduce pressure on health services and improve health and wellbeing for those living with a cardiovascular disease or respiratory illness – those who are most at risk from the health impacts of cold homes. Through practical energy efficiency improvements and advice, the scheme aims to both help to prevent avoidable winter deaths (in 2012-13, 510 people died as a result of cold weather across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire) and reduce fuel poverty, which affects 7.9% of households in the two counties.
The scheme will run until December 2016 and covers grants of up to £2,500 toward energy efficiency measures for owner occupied homes where someone has a respiratory illness or cardiovascular disease. Measures include insulation, draught proofing and replacement outside doors or windows. There will also be free surveys to identify potential risks to health in owner occupied and privately rented homes where someone has a respiratory illness or cardiovascular disease. Support with benefits checks, fuel debt mediation and switching energy tariff or supplier, for anyone in need of support.
Alexandra Steeland, project manager said: “With winter upon us, this is the time of year when anyone living in a cold or damp home with a cardiovascular disease or a respiratory illness is most affected by the weather. It’s also the time of year when the NHS is at its most stretched. Better Housing, Better Health will help those most affected and aims to lessen the stress on local medical and social services.”
To access the service, referrals are made by a health or social care professional. Anyone who thinks they could be eligible for support from Better Housing, Better Health can download and complete the referral form from www.nef.org.uk/bhbh and get it signed by a health or social care professional.