1 December 2015

‘People with Alzheimers and other dementias are much more likely to die in winter than at other times of the year’.  

That was the message from Ulster University at today’s ‘Manifesto for Warmth’ conference organised by the NI Fuel Poverty Coalition.

Over 100 delegates gathered at the Dunadry Hotel to hear about the Ulster University’s new research, which highlights the previously unidentified risks of cold weather for this group.

Speaking at the conference Pat Austin, National Energy Action Director and Chair of the NI Fuel Poverty Coalition said: “It has been really important to hear about the University of Ulster’s research which found that loss of memory can mean people forget how to use their heating system or when they may need to order a fill of home heating oil.  They might also be unsure which clothes are appropriate for the season and additionally some forms of medication can lower dementia patients’ sensitivity to temperature.

“These findings reinforce the importance of energy efficiency in the home, including the need to install the best possible insulation in the most vulnerable people’s homes.  Ahead of next year’s Assembly elections the discussion has prompted some really useful debate on current initiatives and next steps in the campaign to end fuel poverty in Northern Ireland,” said Pat.

The conference also heard from the Centre for Sustainable Energy about a project in Bristol which is integrating the Health and Warm Homes agenda, while representatives from NI’s Health, Social Development and Enterprise Departments, as well as MLAs and Councillors, were quizzed on what they are doing and what more they plan to do to tackle fuel poverty here.

Pat added: “We have five Government Departments working on fuel poverty which, along with other funders, are spending circa £100m a year on many schemes and projects.  A coordinated approach from Government is vital.  The Fuel Poverty Coalition believes now is the time for honest appraisal of the Affordable Warmth Scheme and a review of the Fuel Poverty Strategy by the Department for Social Development. We need to know if targeting maps are working, if eligibility criteria are correct and can self-referral be introduced for those who fall outside the scheme?  We need to know if the quality inspection regimes for energy efficiency measures are fit for purpose.  We look forward to working with the Department for Social Development and supporting this evaluation.”

Households in fuel poverty are those whose energy bills account for more than 10% of their income.  Northern Ireland has the highest level of fuel poverty in the UK at 42% (2011 House Condition Survey).

All utility providers have a ‘Priority Services Register’, which gives customers with special needs access to extra services and protection.  The Fuel Poverty Coalition advises consumers with particular needs, or their carers, to ensure they are on these registers.

The Consumer Council can provide more information and support on 0800 1216 022 or by emailing info@consumercouncil.org.uk.

For more info please contact Keelin Kelly at the Consumer Council on 077 9903 2203 or 079 1768 2327 or by email to keelin.kelly@consumercouncil.org.uk.


Notes for Editors:
  1. Professor Christine Liddell’s team at Ulster University analysed 25 years of data on deaths in the UK and statistics show that around one-third more people with dementia die in the colder months of winter than at other times of the year.
  2. The five NI Government Departments that work on fuel poverty are: Social Development, Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Health, Agriculture and Rural Development and the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
  3. Fuel poverty rates in England, Scotland and Wales are 12%, 35% and 30% respectively (National Energy Action’s 2014 Fuel Poverty Monitor, based on the most up to date Government statistics).