Tackling Fuel Poverty This Winter

News Article

27/11/2013

Reading Borough Council will again be helping residents tackle fuel poverty and keep warm over the coming weeks with the re-launch of its Winter Watch initiative.

An estimated 10,500 households in Reading - or nearly 18% of all households in the town - are now considered ‘fuel poor’. That means many families across Reading will again struggle to keep warm this winter due to soaring energy prices and the need to balance their budgets.

Last year the Council’s Winter Watch scheme helped 800 vulnerable households in Reading keep warm over the winter months. Whilst Government funding for the scheme stopped this year, Reading Borough Council has chosen to find additional resource to continue the scheme this winter.

The Council will use £75 000 of the public health budget to provide extra resources for this year’s initiative. It also delivers one of the Council’s seven pledges made at last week’s Tackling Poverty event.

Reading’s Winter Watch 2013 will provide practical help and advice for vulnerable residents battling to cope with rising fuel bills. Support on offer includes:

• home energy checks
• draught proofing
• access to grants for insulation
• providing heaters and bedding
• emergency payments

Cllr Richard Davies, Lead Member for Housing says:

"At last week's Tackling Poverty event we saw some stark figures relating to the number of people living in poverty. While rising fuel bills are a concern for many of us, the most vulnerable in our community are particularly at risk of suffering from fuel poverty. We know that some people may even face a choice between heating and eating this winter and I urge anyone who is worried about keeping themselves warm, or have concerns for a friend or neighbour during the cold weather, to contact the Council’s Winter Watch team who may be able to help."

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Member for Health says:

“With temperatures falling and fuel prices rising we are keenly aware of the impact of fuel poverty on some of our most vulnerable residents. Reading Borough Council’s Winter Watch team is here to help, so please give us a call or drop us an email.”

Fuel poverty is directly linked to an individual’s health and wellbeing and it affects people most significantly during the winter months. This is reflected in the number of excess winter deaths recorded in England and Wales, which has averaged 26,700 each year over the past ten years.

Winter Watch aims to:

• Reduce death and morbidity due to cold housing through developing a more co-ordinated response across statutory and voluntary / community sectors;
• Raise awareness of health issues linked to cold housing and to encourage vulnerable householders and the fuel poor to access the help available;
• Work with community health services, social services and the voluntary sector to better target support on the most vulnerable in Reading.

This year’s campaign starts next week and will run from December 1st 2013 until 31st March 2014. If residents know someone who they are concerned about, or need advice on how to stay warm this winter, please contact the Winter Watch team on 0118 937 3747, or email winterwatch@reading.gov.uk from 1st December 2013.

Winter Watch is being supported by agencies including Age UK, NHS, and Citizens Advice Bureau.