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Fuel poverty and the effect on Mental Health

Ms S, 58 years old, resides as a Local Authority tenant. She lives alone, works remotely part-time, and claims disability benefits due to her health issues.

 On 28th March 2024, Ms S sought energy advice and assistance from the Green Doctors service due to the significant financial strain caused by her high energy bills. 

Green Doctors, a team of expert energy advisors, provides free and impartial service through personalized consultations to help Londoners save energy, apply for discounts, and connect them with organizations that can provide further support.

When approached Green Doctors provided energy saving advice and immediate assistance in the form of a Fuel Voucher worth £60; EDF funding worth £150 via SHINE towards her energy bill; Thames water assistance entitling her to the Water help discount of 50%, reducing her payments from £48.53 to £24.26 monthly for 2024/2025; and access to home energy saving devices/appliances such as air fryer, slow cooker, heated blanket, radiator etc.

She achieved substantial savings and relief from her financial burden. She now has greater financial stability, energy saving advice and improved access to essential utilities.

Alike Ms S, many vulnerable households are caught in the visiocus cycle of fuel poverty, and are in need of help!

A recent survey revealed that approximately 3.17 million households in the UK live in fuel poverty. This situation is extremely challenging and stressful for those affected. Fuel-poor households face various constraints, including financial limitations, lack of time, and limited resources. These factors have a detrimental impact on mental health and hinder the ability to live a healthy life.

Fuel poverty worsens health inequalities, affecting both the physical and mental well-being of adults and children.

  • High fuel costs reduce available resources for transportation, socializing, family gatherings, home repairs, and access to essential services, all of which are crucial determinants of health.
  • Specifically, households facing fuel poverty may struggle to afford sufficient and nutritious food, leading to further limitations in their ability to prepare and cook healthy meals.
  • Fuel poverty also results in increased absences from education or work.
  • Households with insufficient funds often fall into a vicious cycle of energy debt.
  • Additionally, fuel-poor households lacking digital access face difficulties accessing necessary assistance.

Deprivation during childhood can have long-lasting effects on a person’s growth and development. Epigenetics, a field of science that studies how environmental factors influence DNA function, suggests that up to 10% of a person’s DNA can be affected by the conditions they experienced as a child. Exposure to the consequences of living in cold, damp housing, such as mould and disrupted sleep, can lead to epigenetic changes in children.

Fuel poverty has a negative impact on people’s health because they have to live in cold homes. This leads to poor indoor air quality due to a lack of ventilation, resulting in issues like dampness and mould. In addition to the risk of dampness in cold homes, poorly fitted or single-measure retrofitting can worsen the problem by reducing ventilation.

Across the UK, there is a growing number of reports indicating that more people are unable to afford basic living essentials, including food and a warm home. According to the Mental Health Foundation, financial concerns are negatively impacting people’s ability to engage in activities that promote mental well-being and prevent mental health problems from arising.

Communities have joined forces to help vulnerable households, but more support is required.

For 18 years, we have been relentlessly working towards significantly improving the quality of life of vulnerable residents like Ms S. 

 We currently serve 16 boroughs in London.

If you want to learn more about the signs of fuel poverty, read here.

If you want to learn more or have some questions, feel free to contact us here.

Source- https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/annual-fuel-poverty-statistics-report-2024

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