Ministers turning blind eye to fuel poverty, claims MP

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A SHADOW cabinet minister and South Yorkshire MP used an event in Rotherham to accuse the Prime Minister of leaving the elderly and vulnerable at risk from fuel poverty, disease and death.

John Healey, Labour’s shadow health secretary and MP for Wentworth and Dearne, made his comments at an event attended by experts from universities, health bodies, councils, housing organisations and charities from around the country.

The Keeping Warm in Later Life project, led by Sheffield Hallam University and NHS Rotherham, is looking at how older people’s health can be improved by tackling fuel poverty and making homes warmer.

The former housing minister criticised the Government for cutting schemes like Warm Front, which gives grants to help older people and low-income families make their homes more energy efficient.

Mr Healey said nearly 3,000 households in the Wentworth and Dearne constituency have received help worth over £3.6m through Warm Front.

Speaking after the event yesterday, he said: “It costs the NHS over £850m a year to treat winter-related disease due to cold private housing.

“Every £1 spent on providing housing support for vulnerable people can save nearly £2 in reduced costs of health services, crime and residential care.

“So these short-term, budget-driven cuts will have longer-term consequences for many people’s health and welfare, and lead to greater cost in other parts of the system, especially the NHS.

“Labour took steps in government to make improvements and encourage closer working between housing and health. But we’ve seen progress go backwards this year.

“Energy prices are going up and pensioners and low-paid workers are the ones losing out.

“David Cameron is showing he’s not on the side of consumers or interested in tackling fuel poverty.

“It is important that providers continue to work together and look at what we can do locally to keep people warm, in their own homes and in good health – whatever the national government does or says.”

The consultation heard from a number of expert speakers and showcased projects from around the country.