The very high percentage of households in fuel poverty in West Somerset is a huge concern for all. It is a socio-economic problem driven by the energy efficiency of the property, the cost of energy, and household disposable income.
It affects households with children hardest, as this demographic is particularly sensitive to changes in the economy. In 2019 over three million households in England (13·4%) were fuel-poor. Of these over 40% included children, with lone-parent families showing the highest rate at 28%.
The Lancet states categorically that infants in cold houses risk lifelong “pulmonary function deficit” and continues “In the UK the harms of fuel poverty to children remain unaddressed, because children are not considered a priority”.
We know that draughts account for a substantial proportion of heat loss (it can be as much as 50%), yet this too is unaddressed in Government funding programmes. This despite the fact that draughtproofing is a simple, cost efficient, effective way to make homes warmer.
Our Fuel Poverty project mission is to help in these two neglected areas – the little recognised effect of fuel poverty on the health of children, and the lack of government support for draughtproofing.
In draughtproofing households in this socioeconomic group we aim to help create warmer homes by the simplest means, at no additional cost to the householder.
We know from our contacts with local schools that many pupils come from families which face the cruel dilemma of whether to eat and not heat, or heat and not eat. As a result we agreed that the best way of fulfilling our aim is to work in partnership with schools. They will give us a trusted, well focused entry to the homes in greatest need, and reap benefit for their pupils.
The QE team formed to lead this project consists of a well-renowned heat loss engineer, an experienced community support worker, a landlord with great experience in the construction and design of houses, a retired businessman, and the Family & Parent Support persons in West Somerset schools.
This is the talent base from which our Fuel Poverty objectives are being developed and will be executed.