Housing and fuel poverty campaigners are calling on free school meals hero Marcus Rashford to help spread their message.
Sustainable Housing Action Partnership (SHAP) has launched a crowdfunding campaign which will enable it to continue to carry out vital research with stakeholder partners to help change the way local authorities support those suffering from fuel poverty and its effects.
But it needs to raise £50,000 before July 8 in order to achieve this – and is calling on 50,000 donors to offer just £1 each to help them reach their goal.
The funds will be used to work with organisations from the health, social care, construction and social housing sectors to develop a detailed roadmap which can be used by local authorities across the West Midlands.
These councils will, in turn, use the roadmap to procure and invest in programmes to improve local housing stock and focus on health, wellbeing, social care and job opportunities for residents currently living in fuel poverty.
Research suggests Covid-19 has hit those in poorer communities hardest. With food and fuel poverty linked with poor housing and restricted life opportunities, campaigners say many in this group are unable to cope, which is contributing to an increase in mental health issues.
And SHAP fears the coming winter could see the NHS overwhelmed not only by Covid-19 and winter flu, but also avoidable accidents, such as falls in cold houses, and illnesses related to fuel poverty.
The roadmap will show clear, practical steps each council can take to put the proposals into practice.
It can also be used as a template for other local authorities across England and the wider UK to secure all important central government funding.
Ten per cent of the West Midlands population – more than 280,000 households according to a 2020 report – live in fuel poverty, meaning they simply do not have enough money to pay for heating or even to cook the meals they need to remain healthy. Numbers are expected to rise significantly this year.
And with the likelihood of a second wave of Covid-19 this winter, the impact of living in an inadequately heated home, which increases the risk of respiratory infections, is potentially even more deadly.
For those already struggling to pay the bills, the threat or reality of losing their job and the overall economic impact of coronavirus means this winter could serve up a potentially lethal cocktail.
SHAP co-ordinator Rosemary Coyne explained
“Fuel poverty blights lives and communities, pulls the economy down and contributes to continuing cycles of poverty and health inequalities.
“We want to show that this plan is ready for adoption and implementation by local authorities and will contribute significantly to alleviating fuel poverty.”
She believes the response to Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign highlights just how close to people’s hearts social issues have become in recent months.
“There is a clear link between child hunger and fuel poverty. If you can’t afford to pay your electricity or gas bills, then it’s obvious you can’t afford to cook meals. That’s an appalling state of affairs.
Having managed to get child hunger onto the national agenda, the next step is to help hundreds of thousands of people out of fuel poverty.
There have been a number of fuel poverty focused investment programmes in the past, but none so far seems to have had a significant impact. Ours is a more joined up approach with input from many partners and we have learned from the successful elements and failures of previous attempts.”
To donate, visit the Tackling fuel poverty – now and post Covid campaign crowdfunding page.
- Sustainable Housing Action Partnership hopes the Marcus Rashford effect will help it achieve its aim of raising £50,000 by July 8 to complete a report aimed at helping local authorities alleviate fuel poverty.
For more information contact SHAP press officer Helen Lambell at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07969 253147