Simon Read: Is the 'heat or eat' scandal really down to poor insulation?

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The Independent Online

I've written many times about the shaming scandal that many vulnerable older people are forced to choose between heating and eating because they can't afford soaring energy bills.

The response from the energy giants is to blame the poor insulation in much UK housing, suggesting that if we all had our houses insulated properly, the problems would disappear.

The Government has recognised the problem and hands out grants to homeowners to help with the cost of putting in decent insulation. But does that really make a difference?

I'm not sure that it does, judging by an email I had this week from a reader from Wiltshire. Wendy said she discovered her home qualified under the Warm Front scheme (which is now called Affordable Warmth) for free insulation.

"Our house qualified for draft proofing as it is a 1730s cottage with no cavity walls," Wendy told me. "However, when the nominated private company visited, it said our cottage was too difficult to draught- proof because of its age. So we still have a force 10 gale going through the cottage."

As a consequence, Wendy and her husband, aged 70 and 80 respectively, are hit with a monthly electric bill of around £225 (they don't have gas). She also reported that her 90-year-old neighbour, a war hero who lives in a more modern bungalow, spends most of his pension on fuel bills.

"The problem is with the bills themselves, regardless of insulation," Wendy said. "Elderly and vulnerable people simply need help with paying the bills."

Wendy and her neighbour aren't the only folk in this kind of situation. It's a serious problem that so many are struggling.

Twitter: @simonnread

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