Out in the Cold


Kathy Taylor from Wanstead Climate Action urges local politicians to support the United for Warm Homes campaign, which highlights the mental and physical health impacts of cold homes

A new report by the Institute of Health Equity highlights the shocking fact that in Britain today, 9.6m households are living in heat-leaky homes and have incomes below the poverty line. Cold homes double the risk of adults developing new mental health conditions and put one in four children at risk of multiple mental health symptoms.

The lack of meaningful action to tackle Britain’s cold homes over the last decade has intensified inequalities and the level of harm being felt across the country with many millions of households now at crisis point.

The UK has the oldest and least efficient housing stock in Europe, with housing directly responsible for 14% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, driven in part by the proportion of uninsulated or poorly insulated homes. Since 2013, installation rates of energy-saving measures and insulation have plummeted by 90%. Rather than the intermittent and piecemeal approach to home insulation of successive governments so far, if there were a nationwide, government-led programme to upgrade the UK’s inefficient housing stock, not only would this bring millions out of fuel poverty, but it would go some way towards tackling the climate crisis. In addition, with the reduced costs of fuel subsidies, the improved health impacts and the stimulus to a UK green economy, the costs of a street-by-street insulation programme would more than pay for itself. This would be win-win, as we cannot get to net zero carbon emissions without tackling our leaky homes.

The total cost of insulating low-income UK homes to a suitable standard (EPC grade C) is likely to be around £74.5 billion, or £6 billion a year over 12 years, which was the original commitment proposed by Labour as part of its warm homes plan before it backtracked on this recently. Wanstead Climate Action has been taking part in a Friends of the Earth campaign called United for Warm Homes to raise awareness of this situation. 

Locally, a shocking 69% of homes in Ilford are heat-inefficient. In Leyton and Wanstead, (John Cryer’s constituency) the figure is only slightly better at 66%, and in Chingford and Woodford Green it is 65%. Due to the high percentage of leaky homes and high fuel poverty in Ilford, we met with the shadow health minister Wes Streeting MP (Ilford North), who supports the campaign. However, we are asking all local MPs to pledge support and do all they can to ensure the introduction of policies to tackle this crisis so none of their constituents suffer from fuel poverty or a cold home. John Cryer, are you listening?

Last year, over 40 Redbridge people came together to make two beautiful quilts that highlight this situation. If you have a suitable public place to display the quilts for a few weeks, do get in touch.

For more information, visit wnstd.com/ch. To contact Wanstead Climate Action, email info@wansteadclimateaction.com