Even in a heatwave it’s worth keeping tabs on winter
pressure changes, writes Neil Bateman.
Many of my clients find it difficult to heat their homes
properly and not only spend much of their money trying to but are
often ill in the winter. What can be done about this?
In the middle of summer, it is easy to forget that prolonged
exposure to low temperatures is a major factor in early deaths
among poor people. It is also proven to cause and worsen
respiratory and cardiac problems.
Indeed, a major contributory factor to the annual winter
pressures crisis that the NHS and social care services suffer is
fuel poverty. So any health or social care strategy on winter
pressures should include sorting out fuel poverty – and please not
the stale, old advice to wrap up warm.
One approach that is fundamental to addressing fuel poverty is
income maximisation. Making sure that people at risk from the cold
– who are not just older people – claim all the benefits they are
entitled to is a basic building block. The improvements that have
been made in means-tested benefits for older people and for
children are a real step in the right direction.
Another tool for tackling fuel poverty is the home energy
efficiency scheme (Hees). This is run by government but in practice
the day-to-day work is carried out under contract, being
administered by private company the Energy Action Grants Agency
Hees has been massively revamped in the last year, and more
people may well now qualify for grants. Also people who had grants
under the old system may qualify for extended grants under the new
one – for example, they could now increase loft insulation to an
eight-inch thickness, whereas before they.might have been limited
to, say, four.
The new Hees can also provide new heating controls,
draughtproofing, cavity wall insulation, pipe insulation and, in
some cases, installation of central heating or upgrades to existing
heating systems. The precise items that can be grant- aided depend
on a combination of income and the actual heating efficiency needs
of a property. The scheme is open to tenants and owner-occupiers
Addressing fuel poverty also, of course, brings with it direct
environmental benefits – fuel-inefficient properties are a major
contributor to global warming.
Devolution has added a complication to Hees, as there are now
four schemes operating in the UK. Although they are all broadly
similar, certain details vary within the UK. For example, in
Scotland, the Warm Deal for Scotland enables anyone over 60 to get
a grant of up to £125, and for anyone of any age on a
disability or income-based benefit – including tax credits – to get
a grant of up to £500.
In England, the criteria for people over 60 are tighter, as they
have to be on an income-based benefit but may get up to £2,000
or up to £1,000 if they are on a disability-related benefit
but not also on a means-tested benefit. Householders under 60 can
also get up to £1,000 if they are on an income-based benefit
or disability-related benefit.
In Wales, the maximum grant for anyone of any age on an
income-based or disability-related benefit is £2,700, with a
grant of up to £175 for anyone over 60.
And in Northern Ireland, the Domestic Energy Efficiency Scheme
maximum is £2,000, but households in the private sector on a
disability-related benefit can also get a lower grant of
Because of these differences, it is best to get details of the
specific schemes operating in your area. You can do this by
visiting Eaga’s website – www.eaga.co.uk – which not only
sets out the different schemes and offers downloadable leaflets,
but also carries information on local authority and other grant
schemes to supplement the Hees.
You can obtain details by ringing Eaga directly. The phone
number for the scheme in England is 0800 952 0600; Scotland 0800
072 0150; Wales 0800 316 2815; and Northern Ireland 0800 181