MPs urged to sign up to initiative to tackle deaths from cold homes
With one in ten households in Britain facing fuel poverty this winter, and cold homes contributing to 24,300 excess winter deaths during last year, calls have been made for MPs to step up and take action.
This year, 12 MPs from across the political spectrum are signing up to a new approach to tackling fuel poverty in their constituencies: the Fuelling Connections project, initiated by environmental charity Hubbub.
This innovative approach uses social media to bring communities together to support those most in need – sharing local advice and information on saving money in the home, with a focus on reducing the cost of energy.
Rachel Jones Teviot from Poplar in London, who took part in a pilot project last year, said: “I joined Fuelling Connections last winter. I got all sorts of tips and advice on saving money in the home. There was support out there I’d never heard of. I got a new boiler and put radiator foil behind my radiators. I pay £300 less a year on energy now and this winter me and my two daughters will stay nice and warm.”
Trewin Restorick, CEO and Founder of Hubbub, said: “It only takes an unexpected event such as illness, redundancy or relationship to fall into fuel poverty. Our research suggests that help is not always reaching those most in need, particularly those whose circumstances have changed. We came across frequent examples of people who are having to go to bed in the afternoon simply to stay warm, people who couldn’t afford to eat when their benefits ran out and others who were ignoring spiralling debts.
“We also found that householders often prioritised paying phone and internet bills over food and energy and are regularly using Facebook, which helped confirm to us that this is the right route to reach people. Fuelling Connections is a scalable approach that can easily work anywhere in the country and our ambition is to support as many communities as possible.”
MP for Truro and Falmouth, Sarah Newton, has been the driving force behind Cornwall becoming the first whole region to sign up to the scheme after it was successfully piloted in her constituency.
She said: “I am delighted that every constituency in Cornwall is now on board with Fuelling Connections. This innovative approach is helping us to reach and support local residents who on a daily basis are struggling to pay bills and keep their homes warm. I look forward to joining with the other MPs involved in Fuelling Connections in June to share the results of the project and I hope even more MPs will get on board next year.”
Shadow secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy, Clive Lewis, is launching Fuelling Connections in his constituency Norwich South and said: “Last year in Norwich I did a large scale survey of the estimated one in four households in our city who use pre-payment meters to pay for their energy.
“The results we got back were shocking and very worrying. The extra cost of using these meters, in addition to price rises and low incomes means that there are thousands of our most vulnerable fellow citizens facing the Hobson’s Choice of heating or eating on a daily basis. Bringing Fuelling Connections to Norwich will enable advice and help to reach the right people – many of whom often feel isolated and don’t want to talk about the issues that they are facing.”
Fuelling Connections is currently supported by Calor, The Christopher Laing Foundation, National Energy Action and Awards 4 All.
Organisations and MPs interested in hearing more on the progress of this year’s project are encouraged to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.