Protecting the elderly and vulnerable from a cold home
Cold weather can be dangerous for everyone; in a typical winter 25,000 elderly and vulnerable people die as a direct result of the cold weather, with further deaths resulting from the extreme cold.
Extreme cold can lead to hypothermia, which in turn increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and respiratory illnesses – not to mention increasing the likeliness of falls.
Obviously central to this is to ensure that both the elderly and vulnerable have limited exposure to the cold. In the home environment, this means that regardless of the cost, the home needs to be kept at a sufficient temperature to ensure the occupant remains comfortable and warm.
The recommended temperature for a home housing elderly and vulnerable occupants is 210c and even at 18 degrees, there should be no immediate threat to the occupant’s health.
If a house is 160c or lower, then this is really where the problems start to occur, with weakened resistance to respiratory disease, increased blood pressure and hypothermia.
There are some simple bits of advice we would like to share with everyone to ensure that this winter the elderly and vulnerable are less impacted by exposure to cold in their homes.
There is help available to help protect the elderly and vulnerable from the cold
Living in a better-insulated property means that the home retains heat better, this not only means lower energy bills, but also it becomes easier to heat (it heats up quicker and cools down more slowly when the heating turns on and off).
There are grants available for free loft insulation (we recommend 300mm if possible) and free cavity wall insulation. Make a call to your energy supplier and request the insulation for free, this may require a survey from a registered surveyor. At the very least, the energy company should be able to point you in the direction of an ECO loft or cavity insulation installer.
As we have mentioned – loft and cavity wall insulation should be 100% free!
In some cases, provided the occupant is in receipt of the necessary benefits (e.g. pension credit) they may also be eligible for a free boiler under the ECO scheme. Unfortunately the way this scheme was set up – many of the installers have now reached their obligation in terms of numbers of boiler installs required, but a quick call to the energy company should be able to confirm their position on this.
Top tips – heating the homes of elderly and vulnerable people
If the home has a thermostat, ensure that during the day it is set at 210c and at night it is a minimum of 180c. This should ensure the home remains at a comfortable temperature. Make sure the programmer is on 24/7 – the thermostat will stop the house getting too warm, but will make sure the house remains at the required temperature.
Elderly and vulnerable members of society are often able to get a free yearly gas safe certificate – this ensures that the boiler in the home is running efficiently and safely. Gas suppliers are duty bound to offer this service free of charge to this section of society so once again, it is worth making the call to the energy supplier to see if they can help.
Jumpers and curtains help too!
Often overlooked is the amount of clothing worn in the winter months. Obviously the more clothing layers worn, the more warm air trapped near the body and the less the cold is felt – however this should not be done instead of heating the house, since even inhaling cold air can be a health risk, but it is worth considering.
Curtains are also definitely worth using tactically in the colder months. During sunny winter days, curtains covering south facing windows should be kept open to increase solar gain, however in bad weather and as soon as it gets dark, all curtains should be closed to minimise heat loss through the windows
3 schemes that are designed to help Elderly and vulnerable people
There are three other schemes designed to help Elderly and vulnerable people in the winter months.
This is a payment made to help cover the additional costs of energy during the winter months. This payment is between £100 and £300 and is dependent on the circumstances of the claimant during the qualifying week, which for the 2014/15 winter fuel payment was between the 15th and 21st September.
The payment is all tax free and has no effect on any other payments
You can read more about this scheme on the Government’s website by clicking here.
For winter 2014 / 15 the warm home discount allows for a £140 discount on the claimants electricity bill, provided on the 12th July 2014 all of the following eligibility requirements applied:
- The claimants energy supplier was part of the scheme
- The claimants name (or the claimants partner’s) was on the bill
- The claimant is getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (even if they receive the Savings Credit too)
Even if these eligibility criteria don’t all apply, one may still be able to benefit since each energy supplier have their own rules on the ‘broader group’ they can help – so it is worth making the call!
Cold weather payments are only paid if the weather is exceptionally cold and this cold lasts for seven days or more.
Payments are made when the local temperature is recorded or forecast to be an average zero degrees Celsius, or fewer, for 7 consecutive days
The recipient of this payment gets £25 for each 7 day period where this is the case between the 1st November and the 31st March.
The Government have set up a tool to see whether a particular location is due to be paid the cold weather payment – which can be accessed by clicking on the link below and simply entering a postcode.
We strongly recommend any person who requires help paying for their energy bills takes a look at the 3 schemes listed above.
A final thought this winter period
Obviously the winter months affect us all, but if you know someone who would be considered elderly and or vulnerable, please please please regularly check on them, even if it is a simple call to check they are okay!
If the weather is especially cold, offer to run their errands for them, perhaps going to the shops or post office on their behalf. Doing their shopping allows them to stay indoors and in the warmth!
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