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OFTEC urges government to act now on fuel poverty

In the wake of the biggest increase in excess winter deaths for 15 years, OFTEC is calling for a fairer deal for the 4.5 million UK households currently living in fuel poverty to help them keep warm and well.

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Government figures show the number of excess deaths last winter (2014/15) reached 43,900, up 151% on the previous year, representing the highest annual increase since records began.

The majority of excess deaths last winter occurred among people aged 75 and over and although the large increase has been partly attributed to an ineffective flu vaccine, another important factor was that many vulnerable people could not afford to adequately heat their homes.

One of the main problems, says OFTEC, is that UK housing stock is amongst the least energy efficient in Europe, with poor insulation and old, inefficient heating which leads to higher fuel bills. Many older, rural properties have the worst energy performance certificate (EPC) ratings of F and G and OFTEC says more needs to be done to urgently improve the energy efficiency of these properties.

Jeremy Hawksley, director general at OFTEC, said: “In this day and age it is totally unacceptable that we are still seeing such a large number of people dying from the cold.

“Even though oil prices are continuing to fall, many rural households are still likely to be in fuel poverty due to poor insulation levels and the many older, less efficient boilers still in use.

“OFTEC continues to urge government to re-think the UK’s current heating strategy which leaves too many people out in the cold, with off grid consumers getting a particularly poor deal.

“Fuel poverty is an urgent issue. Government needs to act now to ease the pressure on the millions of fuel poor and help prevent thousands more pointless deaths from the cold.”

OFTEC has republished a booklet, in partnership with Age UK, for older people, to help them keep warm and well during the winter. Visit www.oilsave.org.uk/OilSmart to download a PDF of ‘Keeping Warm This Winter’.