Housing

'A national scandal': Nearly 5,000 deaths caused by cold and damp homes last winter

Campaigners are calling for change to protect people from cold and damp homes and the damage it causes to their health

cold and damp

Damp and mould can damage people's health. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 5,000 excess deaths were caused by cold and damp homes in winter last year, according to new research.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has estimated that 4,950 people died because of such conditions in their home in winter 2022 to 2023.

It comes after The Big Issue reported that a baby has been hospitalised six times due to damp, mould and overcrowding in a rental home medical professionals described as a “disaster waiting to happen”.

These new figures prove that this is far from an isolated incident. Around 8.3m adults are living in cold, damp homes this winter, according to the campaign group Warm this Winter.

Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented: “As temperatures drop, these conditions go from being uncomfortable to downright dangerous. But while households struggle, ministers are sitting on their hands and leaving matters of life and death to chance.

“Instead of taking action on energy bills, they have allowed energy firms to restart using the courts to force households onto prepayment meters and have now ruled out reform to energy tariffs to help those most in need. 

“They would rather play politics with a ridiculous Oil and Gas Licensing Bill that will do nothing to improve energy security or lower bills than take meaningful action to help households struggling right now.”

More than one in five (21.5%) excess winter deaths are attributable to cold housing, according to research from UCL and the Institute of Health Equity.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition uses this figure and analyses official data on excess winter deaths from the Office for National Statistics, National Records of Scotland and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency to produce its estimates.

Commenting on the research, Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner, Georgia Whitaker, said: “This is a national scandal. The UK has the least insulated homes in Western Europe. We’ve known this for years. Yet every year thousands of people are dying as a result. And our government is doing practically nothing to fix the problem. 

“Insulating homes at speed and scale right across the UK would drastically reduce these unavoidable deaths, as well as helping to tackle the cost of living and climate crises by lowering bills and slashing household emissions. But until that happens, this shameful government negligence will continue to cost people their lives, and without climate leadership the government will be punished at the ballot box.”



The government supports some households with the warm home discount, cold weather payment and winter fuel payment – but campaigners warn that many struggling families will not be eligible for these schemes and the financial support does not stretch far enough.

Energy bills increased in January and average households will now pay £1,928 each year for their gas and electricity, because that’s the figure Ofgem has set for its energy price cap.

Jan Shortt, general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, which is part of the Warm This Winter campaign, said: “We are very concerned at the level of disinterest shown by the government in the welfare of older people at a time when the temperature is dropping well below freezing. 

“It fell as low as -14 degrees this week and even in towns and cities it does not get much warmer until later in the day. This presents a real dilemma for older people struggling with the cost of energy and other inflated bills – we know many are already afraid to turn the heating on at all.

“Add to this the decision by Ofgem and the government to allow the force-fitting of energy prepayment meters to resume, while energy providers continue to enjoy inflated profits, smacks of abandonment of those struggling to pay their bills without any relief on the horizon.”

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