HIAs can help prevent excess winter deaths

Official figures for England and Wales show an increase in the number of winter deaths, an estimated 43,190 excess winter deaths occurred in 2014/15 - the highest number since 1999/00.

The data released by ONS shows that most of the deaths involved people over 75. There were an estimated 36,300 excess winter deaths in this age group, compared with 7,700 in people aged under 75.

Cold, damp and poorly insulated housing are important factors in excess winter mortality, and in less severe cases they can lead to worsening health, risk of injury and social isolation.

Home improvement agencies can provide access to tailored services that address common barriers to tackling cold homes. Small measures such as heating and insulation repairs or gas safety works can sometimes make a huge impact to an individual’s health and wellbeing.

Earlier this year NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, released a new guidance on how to reduce deaths and illnesses caused by cold homes (http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng6). NICE outlined the vital role that home improvement agencies can play in in tackling excess winter deaths by creating a single-point-of-contact referral system so that staff in contact with vulnerable people have a quick and easy way to get help from national and local service providers.

Our charitable arm Foundations Independent Living Trust can also provide access to tailored solutions for people living in cold homes. FILT is already working at national level with energy providers and energy charities, distributing small grants to HIAs that help home owners (many on low incomes or with health problems) to cover heating repairs and insulation. Applications are turned around quickly, within less than 24 hours on average, so vulnerable people don’t have to wait long.

Andrew Chaplin, Chief Executive at FILT said:'The figures released today by ONS only emphasise the amount of work that still needs to be done in order to tackle cold homes and their effect on the health and wellbeing of older and vulnerable people. FILT will continue to work with partners to source much-needed funding streams so that we reach more people in need.'

Paul Smith, Director at Foundations said: ‘Home Improvement Agencies are at the forefront of prevention offering a wide range of services that help people stay warm and well in their homes. Energy efficiency measures such as drought-proofing or boiler repairs can often enhance people’s wellbeing and prevent cold-related ill health.’