Cold Enough

Cold Enough Excess Winter Deaths Winter Fuel Payments and the UKs problem with the cold

The government could do much more to tackle excess winter deaths and cold-related illness, joining up the work of the four government departments that address these issues.

Around 25,000 preventable ‘excess winter deaths’ occur each year, and the annual cost of cold-related illness to the NHS has been estimated at £1.36 billion.

This report provides a full strategic review of the government’s response to this ongoing public health scandal, and what it should be doing in future.

The report identifies four government departments with policies that touch upon these issues:

  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • Department of Health
  • Department for Energy and Climate Change
  • Department for Communities and Local Government

However, despite progress achieved via policies such as the Cold Weather Plan, Winter Fuel Payments and the Warm Home Discount scheme, the report concludes the government’s policy response is still characterised by:

  • A fragmented, uncoordinated approach across different government departments;
  • The domination of the issue of ‘fuel poverty’ over the health effects of the cold, and an over-reliance on incomplete government means testing data; and,
  • The clear need to do better.

Recommendations of the report include:

  • Introduce an annual public health campaign linked to the Winter Fuel Payment to further influence cold-related behaviour.
  • Create a single national ‘at-risk’ register for the cold, integrating DWP, energy company, GP and local authority data.
  • Give clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) responsibilities for excess winter deaths.
  • Enable CCGs and Health and Wellbeing Boards to refer households for free home insulation under the government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
  • Make excess winter deaths and cold-related illness a Ministerial priority.

Download the report: Cold Enough: Excess winter deaths, Winter Fuel Payments and the UK’s problem with the cold

Author: James Lloyd, Director, Strategic Society Centre

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