As we feel the first real chill of winter this week many of us have turned on the heating and perhaps succumb to a cold but there are local people who don’t turn on the heating and suffer much more than a cold. Public Health Cornwall have estimated that this winter 300 local people will die and many more will have their chronic health conditions exacerbated and end up in hospital because they live in cold homes.
So what is being done to prevent this unacceptable situation. Over the past three years, I have worked with a partnership of local organisations from the NHS and Cornwall Council to voluntary organisations and charities to promote access to the help that is available. Help with reducing fuel bills by installing energy efficiency measures and insulation, through to claiming benefits and getting cash support. This Winter Wellbeing partnership of over 30 organisations has helped over 4,000 people with advice and information and practical support to keep warm and well. I am grateful to the volunteers who are delivering my Cornwall Now magazines to 25,000 homes across my constituency that includes a pull out guide of help that is available now. If you or someone you know is really struggling to stay warm please call the free, award winning Cornish Community Energy Plus helpline on 0800 954 1956.
Older people who receive Winter Fuel Payments who feel they do not need them can donate them to the Cornwall Community Foundation and they will make sure the money reaches those that do need it this winter.
It is good news that there is help now to prevent people suffering from the cold but it is not the long term solution to fuel poverty that we need. Last week I was pleased to bring into law England’s first proper fuel poverty strategy. It aims to ensure that people living in homes in fuel poverty will be insulated and energy efficiency measures installed so that by 2030 all homes are Band C. The average fuel poor home is currently Band E and pays twice the cost for their energy bills. This is a national problem and a local problem with an estimated 11% of homes in Cornwall living in fuel poverty. The strategy was developed by Professor John Hills and a team of independent experts. We know more about fuel poverty than ever before and this has enabled the strategy to target support and action to where it is most effective, to the people living in the coldest and least energy efficient homes. Many people in Cornwall live off the gas grid and in types of home that can be difficult to insulate so the targeted approach of the strategy will make a real difference. While we work towards this target, with your support, I will continue to do everything I can to make sure people get the help that is available now and will continue to reduce the number of people living in cold homes to zero.