Fuel poverty can make many health conditions worsen, particularly respiratory and heart problems.
A fuel-poor household is one which cannot afford to keep adequately warm at a reasonable cost - typically if it costs more than 10 per cent of disposable income to heat a home. Fuel poverty affects one in five city homes.
The issue is often made worse because of high energy bills, poorly-insulated housing and under-performing heating systems.
Affordable warmth key points
- Grants and benefits are available – You may be able to access grants and/or other financial help to assist with paying energy bills or improving your home. You may find you qualify for help with replacing your windows and doors, your boiler or insulating your loft. Contact your local council and your energy provider to find out your entitlement.
- Look out for council-run schemes to help with energy bills – Norfolk councils regularly run the free Big Switch and Save, which helps you find out if you could be paying less for your power. Make sure you sign up, or contact your council for help to do so.
- Check you are on the cheapest energy tariff regularly – Contact your energy provider regularly to make sure you’re on the cheapest possible tariff.
Top tips to help you stay warm
Keep the heat in. Draught proof doors and windows. Insulate lofts, wall cavities, hot water cylinders and pipes. Close doors and curtains to keep heat in. Make sure radiators are not obstructed.
Ask for help. If you need it there are grants and benefits to help heat your home more efficiently, or help with bills. Contact your local council to check if you qualify for a grant to have insulation fitted or to install a new heating system. Contact your energy provider to find out what support they can provide.
Get your free flu jab if you are eligible. Ask at your GP surgery if in doubt. Make sure that you and your family members have received all appropriate vaccinations (influenza, pneumococcal, meningitis), particularly if you or they are in an at-risk group.
Avoid going out in bad weather. If you do go out, wrap up well in plenty of layers, and wear a hat, scarf gloves, water resistant coat, and shoes/boots with a good grip.
Keep your home at the right temperature. Set your heating to 18 to 21°C (65 to 70°F). Above this you may be wasting money, below this your health is at risk. Set heating timers to come on before you get up and switch off when you go to bed.
Hot meals and drinks will help keep you warm. If getting out is difficult, keep a stock of tinned, dried and frozen foods.
Keep active indoors if you can. Try to move around at least once an hour. If your mobility is limited, try moving your arms and legs while sitting or just wiggling your fingers and toes.
Get financial support. Contact the council to claim all the financial support you can and check if you are on the right energy tariff.
Have your heating system checked. Get your central heating system checked every year.
Stay warm in bed with socks, thermal underwear and a nightcap. You can also use a hot-water bottle or electric blanket (but not both at the same time) to keep warm while you are in bed. Several thin layers of clothing are warmer than one thick one.
Look after yourself and check on older neighbours or relatives to make sure they are safe, warm and well. Make sure they are warm enough, especially at night, and have stocks of food, blankets and medicines so they do not need to go out during very cold weather, as well as a water supply in case water pipes freeze
Check on older or vulnerable relatives and neighbours
If you can, make sure any vulnerable people you know are safe, warm and well and have stocks of food, water, blankets and medicines so they don’t need to go out during very cold weather.
How to spot if their health could be at risk when you visit
ü It just feels cold – do you want to keep your coat on when you visit?
ü Discoloured or black patches on walls, or a musty smell.
ü Condensation on windows and window sills.
ü Draughts from cracked or broken windows, gaps under doors, or under the floor.
ü Ventilation covers that have been blocked up.
ü No central heating or heating not being used.
ü Visible risks such as overloaded sockets, exposed wires, clothes or furniture too close to fires or heaters.
ü Are the curtains kept closed all day?
Their health and habits
ü Is the person able to move around?
ü Have they developed a cough or does their breathing seem more difficult?
ü Does their ability to use their hands seem to be getting worse? If they have arthritis in their hands is that worse?
ü Is their mood low? Are they becoming more isolated?
ü Are there signs of poor eating habits, such as wrappers and empty cans, but no evidence of proper hot meals?
ü Do they wear a lot of clothes, or have a lot of blankets, hot water bottles – as if they are struggling to keep warm
Helpful contact details
Norfolk Big Switch and Save: saves fuel bill costs collectively switching energy providers. Register at www.bigswitchandsave.co.uk
Norwich City Council provides financial and energy saving advice; insulation/heating grants, urgent heating need. Visit www.norwich.gov.uk or call 0344 980 3333
Age UK Norwich provides advice on energy saving, benefits and pensions; befriending and social activities. Call 01603 496 333, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/norwich
Norfolk County Council provides support on adult care. Call 0344 800 8020 or visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/adultcare
The Home Heat Helpline is a service for vulnerable customers struggling to pay their bills. Call 0800 336699 (freephone) or visit www.homeheathelpline.org.uk