Warm Homes key to improving health and reducing fuel poverty

Cold and hard to heat homes are a major of source of ill-health in Scotland particularly for the elderly.

The head of the Royal College of Nursing Theresa Fyffe recently said: “it’s indefensible that cold, hard-to-heat homes continue to leave the most vulnerable in our society at the mercy of cold weather each winter.”

Shockingly, it is estimated that between 2,500 and 3,000 older people are dying from cold related illnesses every winter.  It’s clear we must to do a far more to ensure that the homes for our elderly are properly insulated.

This is why this week I lodged a motion in Parliament supporting Age Scotland’s warm homes campaign. The charity is calling for a Warm Homes Act and investment to raise all housing to a high energy performance standard.

In addition to the serious health risks, poorly insulated homes are also a major drain on household finances with one third of Scottish households living in fuel poverty. But it is worse for older people with nearly half of our single household pensioners suffering from fuel poverty.

I agree with Age Scotland that by introducing a Warm Homes Act we can lead the way as a country internationally recognised for improving the nation’s wellbeing.

We would also do well to learn from projects such as the Better health through improved housing’ pilot set up by Edinburgh City Council in conjunction with NHS Scotland and Home Energy Scotland.

The aim of the pilot, as well as reducing fuel poverty levels, is to reduce emergency admissions to hospital by identifying patients with health problems whose health would be improved by undertaking improvements to the fabric of their homes, including new heating systems and insulation.

It is estimated that ill health caused by cold housing costs the NHS in Scotland up to £80 million per year. Such pilots therefore will not only help make our homes more energy efficient and reduce fuel poverty they can also save the NHS money.

I agree with Theresa Fyffe when she said “Ending cold homes and cutting fuel bills through improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes should be a priority for political parties in this year’s Scottish Parliament election.”

As Environmental Justice Spokesperson for Scottish Labour I was proud to announce our support for a Warm Homes Act in advance of the Climate Change talks in December.  I hope other parties will sign up too.

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