Children’s health at risk as fuel poverty strikes

Children’s health at risk as fuel poverty strikes

More than three million families are likely to cut back on food so they can pay their energy bills this winter, The Children’s Society has revealed.

And more than half of the five million families that are likely to turn their heating down because of the cost are worried that their children will become ill as a result, the nationwide survey, jointly produced with the Daily Mirror, shows.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, calls the situation for these children ‘a scandal’ and that it is a duty of our society to care for one another, whether young or old.

Cold conditions can increase the chances of children having respiratory and other health problems. In extreme cases, these health conditions may contribute to children’s deaths. New figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 110 more deaths among children in winter 2011-12 than at other points that year.

For many families turning the heating on is driving them into debt. About 500,000 families said they would likely have to take a loan out this winter in order to help them with the costs of heating their home.

The Children’s Society is calling on the government to help tackle this problem by making the Warm Home Discount – a £135 discount on energy bills for low income families – automatically available to all families with children living in poverty.

As the society’s new report, ‘Behind Cold Doors: The chilling reality for children in poverty’ shows, nearly two million children in poverty are currently living in families that do not get this crucial support.

And whilst 3.6 million children said their homes were too cold, 1.3 million said their home had damp or mould.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said: ‘It is a scandal that millions of children in this country are being forced to live in cold, damp homes. Parents are being forced to choose between the basics – food or warmth. In a society where all people are valued, whether they are old or young, it is our duty to care for one another. It’s never been more important for families in poverty to receive this vital support. This report from the Children’s Society gets it right – I hope it leads to a change of heart! All children are our national treasure.’

The Children’s Society Chief Executive, Matthew Reed said: ‘It is unacceptable that any child in this country is growing up in a cold home; the scale of the problem, as these figures show, is shocking.

‘It’s alarming that three million families will be cutting back on food so they can pay their energy bills this winter. A new ‘heat or eat’ generation is growing up in Britain, as families desperately struggle to make ends meet. But something can be done about this immediately. Urgent action is needed now to make sure all children in poverty can have a warm home,’ he said.

This saving on their energy bills provided by the Warm Home Discount is critical to making sure that those most in need can keep their homes warm, and help put an end to parents having to make harsh choices between the basics.

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