The fuel poverty crisis has profound implications for health

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An article on this important aspect of health for milllions from Jon Simons,
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire KONP

Soaring gas prices are causing misery for millions across the UK. The average energy bill has almost doubled since October 2021, and analysts predict bills won’t fall below pre-COVID levels until at least the end of the decade. According to Friends of the Earth, as many as 6 million people will be in fuel poverty this winter. People of colour, disabled people and young people will be disproportionately impacted.

While global energy prices are resulting in eye watering bills, years of government neglect on home insulation has left us particularly vulnerable. The UK’s homes are among the leakiest in Europe. The result? – higher bills, wasted energy and more climate-wrecking emissions for no good reason. With over 80% of UK homes dependent on gas for heat, our failed energy system is not only fuelling an energy bills crisis, but also worsening the climate crisis too. 

The fuel poverty crisis is also a health crisis. The people impacted most are also those who often live in damp, mouldy homes where conditions worsen when the heating is not turned on to save on fuel bills. The residents become more likely to suffer from a range of respiratory illnesses. GP’s have already piloted a social prescribing programme for heating the homes of patients at risk of hospitalisation. In New Zealand, home insulation has been shown to significantly reduce hospitalisation rates.

United for Warm Homes Campaign

The energy crisis has made one thing clear: our housing stock and energy systems are broken and without rapid, meaningful action, we’ll face continuous hardship. That’s why United for Warm Homes is calling for: 

  1. Urgent support for people dealing with sky-high energy bills. Millions of people are struggling with soaring bills and the rising cost of living. Even with the government’s price freeze, the average energy bill has almost doubled in 12 months, leaving people facing impossible choices between staying warm and putting food on the table. Far more help is needed – through price guarantees, targeted extra payments, and fair energy pricing. The government must ensure everyone can afford the energy they need to keep their homes warm.   
  2. A new emergency programme to insulate our heat-leaking homes. Upgrading our homes with insulation is the cheapest and easiest way to permanently reduce our bills and cut emissions. We’re calling on the government to roll out a rapid, street-by-street insulation programme, coordinated by councils. This should start with the neighbourhoods hardest hit by the crisis and be provided free of charge in areas where people are living on low incomes. This must be followed with deeper measures to upgrade our homes to ensure they are cheaper and greener to heat by 2030.  
  3. An energy system powered by cheap, green renewables. To end the need for expensive and polluting gas in the long term, we must move to a homegrown, renewable energy system. This will require fitting millions of homes with modern electric-powered heat pumps and a rapid expansion of onshore wind and solar power across the UK, as well as developing our vast offshore renewable resources.

How the campaign works

The pandemic showed us that strong and united communities can support each other through even the toughest times. The campaign, organised by Friends of the Earth, can succeed only if we can show that we have broad and vocal support from communities up and down the country. That’s why the initial aim is to build local public support for the campaign from a wide spectrum of community organisations and not only environmental campaigners. And all the while we’re asking members of the public to add their names to local petitions to demonstrate their support for urgent action.  

Our political campaigning will significantly ramp up in the run up to the 2024 general election when we’ll run a coordinated nationwide election campaign. We’ll make sure all political parties know that to get elected next time, they need to commit to urgently fixing our energy system so it works for people and planet. 

Nottingham and Nottinghamshire KONP decided to support the local campaign, run by Climate Action Nottingham, not only because of the increased burden on the NHS from fuel poverty but also to show solidarity with people impacted by fuel poverty. It’s also a good way to let people in your area know about KONP. The more connections KONP makes with other community activists the better. We can support each other’s demands as the next general election approaches to exert maximum pressure. We urge other KONP branches to support your local campaign too. KONP branches can pledge support to the campaign either directly through this link: or by finding your local campaign group here: 

Together we can win the fight for warm homes that don’t cost the earth.
Any questions, please contact [email protected] 

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