Almost four million children in England live in fuel poverty, warns a new report published today. The research by the National Children’s Bureau reveals that it’s not just older people who struggle to pay their energy bills and keep warm.
It warns that living in a cold home leads to an increased risk of children suffering a range of health problems - from asthma and bronchitis to poor mental health – as well as being a factor in their educational attainment and general wellbeing.
‘No-one can understand fuel poverty unless they have lived in it. Fuel poverty is when you wake up to find you have no gas, no money and two days ‘til payday. You have to feed cold food to your children and wrap them up in coats, gloves and scarves indoors or trail them around the shops all day to keep them warm’, one young parent in Lambeth told the report.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau said families shouldn’t be left to solve these problems alone. "Urgent action is needed by the government, energy companies and housing providers to solve the fuel poverty crisis that millions of households find themselves in," she said.
Separate research from fuel poverty charity National Energy Action shows that cold homes claim needless lives and cost every local health trust in England more than £27,000 each day, or £10m per year on treating patients with health conditions caused or worsened by living in cold, damp housing. Nationally, cold homes cost the NHS £3.6m per day, and in the past four years alone over £5bn of tax payers’ money has been wasted while 117,000 people have died needlessly due to the cold.
Jenny Saunders, chief executive of NEA, said: “As well as it being completely unacceptable that in the 21st century people are still becoming ill and dying needlessly because they live in cold homes, treating health-related conditions is also placing a shocking strain on the public purse.”
Biggest business scandals in pictures
Biggest business scandals in pictures
1/9 Mitsubishi admits 'improper' fuel tests dating back to 1991
Mitsubishi has admitted to using false fuel methods dating back to 1991.The scale of the scandal is only just coming to light after it was revealed in April that data was falsified in the testing of four types of cars, including two Nissan cars.Mitsubishi originally said the affected models were limited to the Mitsubishi ek Wagon and ek Space, and the Nissan Dayz and Dayz Roox.The company said the cars were only sold in Japan, but the investigation would cover overseas. Mitsubishi is Japan's largest car maker. It sold more than one million vehicles last year but has less than one per cent of the UK market. This is the first time a Japanese car maker has been implicated in a vehicle testing scandal since the emissions scandal engulfed Volkswagen last year.
2/9 Panama Papers: Millions of leaked documents expose how world’s rich and powerful hid money
Millions of confidential documents have been leaked from one of the world’s most secretive law firms, exposing how the rich and powerful have hidden their money. Dictators and other heads of state have been accused of laundering money, avoiding sanctions and evading tax, according to the unprecedented cache of papers that show the inner workings of the law firm Mossack Fonseca, which is based in Panama. The documents, dubbed "The Panama Papers", reveal links to 72 current or former heads of state and accuse some of them of having vested interests in their own banks and looting their own countries.The ICIJ has listed 140 politicians from more than 50 countries who are linked to offshore companies in 21 tax havens, including countries such as Argentina, Georgia, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar and Ukraine. Mossack Fonseca said it has operated “beyond reproach” for 40 years and has never been acused or charged with criminal wrong-doing.
3/9 Google's tax avoidance
Google reached a deal with the HM Revenue and Customs to pay back £130 million in so-called “back-taxes” that have been due since 2005. George Osborne championed the deal as a “major success”. But European MEPs have since called for the Chancellor to appear in front of the committee on tax rulings to explain the tax deal. For Google's tax arrangements to be disclosed, there would need to be a common agreement on taxation across Europe and a removal of the secrecy used to calculate taxes. It is currently illegal for Governments to reveals details about what companies pay in taxes.
4/9 Turing Pharmaceuticals and Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli became known as the “most hate man in the world” after his drug company, Turing, increased the price of a 62-year-old drug that treated HIV patients by 5,000% to $750 a pill. He was charged with illegally taking stock from Retrophin, a biotechnology firm he started in 2011, and using it pay off debts from unrelated business dealings. Shkreli, who maintains he is innocent, says there is little evidence of fraud because his investors didn't lose money.
5/9 Volkswagen emissions scandal
VW admitted to rigging its US emission tests so that diesel-powered cars would looks like they were emitting less nitrous oxide, which can damage the ozone layer and contribute to respiratory diseases. Around 11 million cars worldwide were affected. “Our company was dishonest with the EPA and the California air resources board, and with all of you, and in my German words, we have totally screwed up,” said Michael Horn, former US chief executive of Volkswagen.
6/9 Quindell, the scandal-ridden insurance firmnow which faced its own sink
Quindell was once a darling of AIM but its share price fell in April 2014 when its accounting practices were attacked in a stinging research note by US short seller Gotham City. In August the group was forced to disclose that the £107 million pre-tax profit it had reported for 2013 was incorrect, and it had in fact suffered a £64million loss. The investigation has prompted legal proceedings to be launched against the firm by a group of 342 retail investors who claim they were misled. Quindell’s shares fell more than 85 percent. In November the troubled company said it would change its name to Watchstone Groupas part of its efforts to draw a line under months of turmoil involving founder Robert Terry.
7/9 Toshiba Accounting Scandal
The boss of Toshiba, the Japanese technology giant, resigned in disgrace in the wake of one of the country’s biggest ever accounting scandals. His exit came two months after the company revealed that it was investigating accounting irregularities. An independent investigatory panel said that Toshiba’s management had inflated its reported profits by up to 152 billion yen (£780m) between 2008 and 2014. Mr Tanaka said the company had suffered “what could be the biggest erosion of our brand image in our 140-year history”.
8/9 FIFA Corruption Scandal
Fifa, football's world governing body, has been engulfed by claims of widespread corruption since summer 2015, when the US Department of Justice indicted several top executives. It has now claimed the careers of two of the most powerful men in football, Fifa President Sepp Blatter (picture) and Uefa President Michel Platini, after they were banned for eight years from all football-related activities by Fifa's ethics committee. A Swiss criminal investigation into the pair is also continuing.
9/9 Libor fraudster
City trader Tom Hayes, 35, has become the first person to be convicted of rigging Libor rates following a trial at London's Southwark Crown Court. Hayes worked as a trader in yen derivatives at UBS before joining the American bank Citigroup in Tokyo. He was fired from Citigroup following an investigation into his trading methods. He returned to the UK in December 2012 and was arrested following a two-and-a-half year criminal investigation by the SFO. He was alleged to have manipulated Libor, the London Interbank Offered Rate, which is used to set the interest rate banks use to lend to each other for $450 trillion-worth of financial contracts and loans. Hayes was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and faces up to 10 years in jail for each count of conspiracy over the manipulation of Libor.
She pointed out that in Sweden and Norway such costs are avoided and thousands of extra people are prevented being admitted to hospital each winter because their residents live in housing which is efficient to heat, despite colder temperatures and higher energy prices. "Given we know the causes and the best cure; we can’t just shrug our shoulders and accept cold-related illness and death as inevitable. It isn’t,” she said.
As part of Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, the charity is urging struggling households to seek help by calling the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99.