The funding will support affordable warmth by increasing low-income households’ energy efficiency rating, giving advice on reducing their energy bills, and helping people access additional support they are entitled to.
The Partnership of NHS, local councils, housing associations and the voluntary community social enterprise sector is working across Bradford district and Craven, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, and Wakefield. The funding aims to benefit people, through a boost to existing projects such as home insulation, boiler repairs, financial savings and benefits advice and heating grants, with the aim of reducing health risks associated with poor housing and cold homes.
Across West Yorkshire 169,000 households, 18% of the 2.4 million people (Source Gov.UK Sub-regional fuel poverty data 2021), are having a difficult choice to make on whether to spend money on fuel or food – all influenced by a household’s income, energy efficiency and costs.
The impact of cold homes is estimated to cost the NHS £2billion every year in England and Wales, with people needing extra care from their GP and hospitals for illnesses such as heart attacks and stroke, respiratory illness, falls, hypothermia and influenza during – for example, hospital admissions for COPD are four times more likely in winter months.
Whilst the greatest impact of winter deaths is in the elderly, it happens across all ages, with people living in poorer communities more likely to be affected. It impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, as well as their children’s health, for example asthma and bronchitis.
Rob Webster, CEO-Designate for WY HCP said: ‘Once again our partnership is investing in prevention, this time to support people who will experience fuel poverty, and struggle to keep warm. We have made a pledge that no one living across West Yorkshire should suffer due to fuel poverty. This funding will help our efforts, and benefit thousands of people who are eligible for support, as well as those at increased risk of hospitalisation during winter because of their fuel circumstances’.
Robin Tuddenham, CEO for Calderdale Council, Chief Officer for Calderdale Commissioning Group and Co-Chair of WY HCP Improving Population Health said: ‘We are seeing increasing challenges for people in being able to afford fuel costs at this time when lack of warmth has a hugely negative impact on health and wellbeing. This is even before the large increases in fuel prices expected next year. We are working with those most affected to enable keep their homes warm, and to manage the impact of these costs with practical support and access to financial assistance through our voluntary and community sector. I welcome this funding from the Health and Care Partnership as we play our part in mitigating the devastating impacts of fuel poverty on health’.
Dr James Thomas, WY HCP Chair of the Clinical Forum, Clinical Lead for Bradford District Clinical Commissioning Group and Co-Chair of WY HCP Improving Population Health said:’ This is all about identifying people who are most at risk so that we can support and avoid the need for urgent care services. Social prescribers working with GP practice are an important part of the work, as they work alongside people to look at their wider health and wellbeing needs.’
Dr Sohail Abbas, a Bradford GP and WY HCP Chair of the Health Inequalities Network said:
‘Many people in West Yorkshire are spending a disproportionate amount of their income on energy bills. The impact of winter and cold homes on people health is well known and the pandemic has seen many families who could previously afford fuel now struggling, with many not knowing about the different benefits and grants available to help. We need to go upstream and tackle the causes of ill health and do all we can together to support our population’.
The next steps are to distribute funding to the West Yorkshire local places to increase resource allocations for targeted winter warmth initiatives.