Thursday, 13 January 2011

Cold kills more older people in Moorlands.

The report in the Post and Times that an increase of 23% of vulnerable people dying in cold weather that would be normally expected in the rural areas is truly shocking. It seems that Staffordshire Moorlands has one of the worst records for excess winter deaths in the UK is utterly reprehensible. In the mid 80s I worked on a project called "Elderly at Risk" in the Staffordshire Moorlands which even then flagged the higher than average deaths from hypothermia and other cold related deaths. I would have thought that we had moved on from then. It seems not to be the case. And that this area tops the poll in a country, which has in any case a shockingly bad record when, compared with countries like Norway and Canada. What are other countries are doing right that we are not?

It is inevitable that the death toll will be higher this year as fuel costs have risen and more people are finding it harder to make ends meet. Gas costs have surged by 50 per cent in a year and electricity by a third, adding around several hundred £s to annual bills. This winter swill be a costly one in every sense of the word
There is so much more energy companies and the Government could be doing: clear marking of electrical goods; pressuring the energy companies to reduce the prohibitive costs of pre payment meters; allowing people to pay bills at post offices again; and helping with winter bills now. Proper energy conservation measures like those in Germany and Sweden where all the housing stock will be adapted to low energy use should have begun years ago. It seems to me not only a means to tackle fuel poverty but also energy saving and job creating as well. Why the delay? It seems a no brainer to me .A more sensitive approach from Government and Energy companies to the needs of the poor and vulnerable would also be a great help. Instead all we have are measures that warm the pockets of the energy companies- an increase of 38% in recent months – while an additional 76 Moorlanders shiver and die.