As the UK prepares for winter, experts are warning that extreme cold spells will push up the already worrying numbers of Britons dying from the cold weather.
With the nation in the grip of economic downturn the last thing the country needs is a bad winter to rival the last two. Homeowners are already struggling to pay for items such as household insurance, luxury food items and non essential motoring. If heating requirements shoot up because of a cold snap, experts are warning the choice between buying food or fuel may well cost some people their lives.
Winter weather brings on illness
Figures obtained from the Office of National Statistics suggest that already 27,000 more people die in winter than at any other time in the UK, the majority of which die due to the cold temperatures. It is not a case of people dying from hypothermia it is a case of people typically with heart and lung problems having their illnesses brought on by the cold weather. Worryingly, research is now suggesting that at least 10% of the extra winter deaths happen in homes where the inhabitants are in fuel poverty (a home that spends 10% or more of its income on heating). It seems many people really do have to make a choice between eating or heating.
UK figures worse than Scandinavia
The figures are far worse than those of Sweden, Norway and Finland, countries that all suffer from more severe winters than the UK. Experts are warning the Government that if the austere financial conditions are combined with freezing weather conditions many more households will have to make agonising choices about the quality of their lives. Home contents insurance, hot water and three square meals a day will be luxuries indeed for thousands of homes.
Help is at hand but some will miss out
Charities are concerned about the problem as well, with many demanding that the Government do more. However, the Government will point out they have already introduced the Warm Homes Discount which should knock about £4 a week off winter heating bills and of course millions receive the winter fuel payments. Energy companies are already giving discounted or free insulation to many impoverished households and the “green deal” initiative should offer even better levels of insulation for many in the coming years. Unfortunately there are always people who somehow miss out on the safety net provided by Governments and charities and for those the coming months will prove to be a challenging time.