Shocking winter death toll of elderly people announced
BRITAIN’S biggest pensioners’ organisation released symbolic black balloons outside Parliament yesterday representing the tens of thousands of elderly people who die in Britain each winter because they cannot keep warm.
The event was staged by the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC), as the government’s Office for National Statistics announced that 24,300 people had died of cold-related illnesses last winter — over 200 a day.
The ratio of deaths to population is higher in Britain than in Scandinavian countries, where social support enables elderly and vulnerable people to heat their homes.
In Britain many are left with a choice between “eating and heating” — and the problem is expected to worsen as benefit cuts increasingly affect those in need.
NPC general secretary Dot Gibson said problems such as poorly insulated housing, low incomes and rising fuel bills are to blame for the extra winter deaths.
She said: “The key is to make sure older people have got a well-insulated warm home and the income needed to pay the fuel bills.
“This is a basic requirement of what a decent society should do. How can colder Scandinavian countries avoid this annual toll while we simply wring our hands?
“Government needs to meet the legally binding fuel poverty target on insulating homes, end higher bills for those on prepayment meters and those who cannot pay online, raise the winter fuel allowance and tackle the excessive profits of the big six energy companies.”
Earlier the Fuel Poverty Action group (FPA) staged a duvet die-in outside the offices of energy provider EDF in London’s Victoria Street.
Ruth London from FPA called on the government to drop its forced sale of social housing stock which she said “will push even more people into cold damp homes where they have no recourse against exploitative private landlords.”
She said the government should ensure security of tenure in both private and social housing.
“No-fault and retaliatory evictions mean many tenants are afraid to raise issues of heating, hot water, draughts, bad insulation and energy-guzzling equipment,” she said.