Charity shines light on top 10 desperate and unsafe coping strategies used to survive winter

New evidence provided by frontline workers to fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action (NEA), has revealed the top 10 unsafe fuel poverty coping strategies being used to survive winter. The regular use of older, dangerous or un-serviced heating appliances is common place, despite being potentially fatal or leading to heightened risks for nearby neighbours as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning or in extreme situations, fires and explosions. The charity says many more people are going to bed early to keep warm and using candles to save on electricity. People struggling to heat their homes are also spending their days in heated spaces such as libraries, cafes or even A&E to avoid the cold.

The warning comes ahead of the ONS statistics on excess winter deaths in England later this week and the launch of NEA’s Warm and Safe Homes (WASH) campaign.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of NEA comments:

“Later this week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will release the number of excess winter deaths in England for last winter. Sadly, NEA expects the statistics to jump for the second year in a row. Behind those figures will be countless other depressing and dangerous ways in which people try to fend off the effects of living in a cold home. We all know that people regularly cut back on their energy use and rely on food banks to get by during winter. But in a modern country like Britain people are even barbequing in sinks, going to bed early to keep warm and permanently using candles for lighting. Frontline workers have also told us they regularly see dangerous appliances being used, ventilation blocked off and people spending days in A&E and libraries just to keep warm. Further evidence from energy suppliers highlights that over 150,000 cases of energy theft were uncovered last year, many of those causing death or major injury, not just to the culprits but innocent neighbours and passers-by.”

The WASH campaign aims to highlight the desperate and unsafe coping strategies being adopted across the UK due to the misery of living in fuel poverty. The charity says it rejects the idea this should be normal in a country as wealthy as the UK and much more can be done to end fuel poverty and ‘preventable’ excess winter deaths and ill health.

Scorer concludes:

“We hope to shine a light on the desperate and unsafe coping strategies being used behind countless front doors across the UK this winter. We reject the idea this should be ‘normal’ in a country as wealthy as the UK. Cold homes, and the misery and ill health they create, are not intractable. We know the causes, the consequences and the cures. What we lack is the focus and commitment to address it. While we fixate on seemingly intractable challenges like Brexit, we risk neglecting millions of people that could be helped with immediate and practical solutions.”

The WASH campaign aims to raise awareness of the annual devastation that cold homes wreak on the most vulnerable in our society; it runs from Wednesday 28 November 2018 up to Fuel Poverty Awareness Day on Friday 15 February 2019.


Notes to Editors

1.      NEA is an independent charity working to protect low-income and vulnerable households from fuel poverty and exclusion in the energy market. NEA has a network of offices throughout England and also has national offices in Cardiff and Belfast which also work to support deprived communities and low-income energy consumers in Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

2.      NEA works to influence and increase strategic action against fuel poverty at a national level through its policy, research and campaigning functions. The charity similarly works with partners from industry, government and the third sector to deliver practical solutions to UK households – improving access to energy advice, energy efficiency products and other related services for vulnerable consumers. NEA believes that radically improving the fabric and heating of homes represents the most cost effective long-term solution for tackling high energy bills and helping to eradicate fuel poverty. NEA also provides the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Fuel Poverty & Energy Efficiency Group, which was first established in 1995 as the Parliamentary Warm Homes Group, to raise awareness of the problem of fuel poverty and the policies needed to eradicate it.

3.      The Warm and Safe Homes (WASH) campaign is NEA’s annual winter initiative (formerly the Warm Homes Campaign), focusing on the need for people to be able to stay warm in their homes. The campaign raises awareness amongst both politicians and members of the public of the problem of fuel poverty and the action needed to be taken at a policy level; as well as the help and support available locally for those struggling to heat their homes. It also highlights key messages around gas and electricity safety in the home. For more information about the WASH campaign visit:

4.      In total 60 respondents completed the Warm and Safe Homes questionnaire. Respondents represented a range of organisations, the most common of which was the not-for-profit/third-sector with 15 respondents, followed by 12 respondents from local authorities. A further 3 respondents were from the housing sector and two represented the energy sector (other). The following sectors had one respondent respectively: Private manufacturers, consultancy organisations, GDNs, private energy suppliers.