KEEPING warm when the temperature plummets outside can be a real struggle for the millions of families who live in fuel poverty.
But as Tameside suffered one of the coldest days of the year so far, Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds spoke to pensioner John Yates about the measures he had taken to keep his home warm.
Mr Yates, aged 80, from Hyde, has benefited from external wall insulation, double glazing and loft insulation.
The measures were installed and funded by his housing association and his energy supplier as part of the Carbon Energy Reduction Target (CERT) scheme.
And they were highlighted last week as part of the annual Warm Homes Campaign, which is led by the charity National Energy Action.
"The cold weather has definitely arrived early this year," said Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds.
"There are too many people who struggle to keep their homes warm and to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the cold. But this shows that there is help available.
"I am delighted to help put the spotlight ion this campaign. And I hope it will encourage anyone who is having trouble to keep warm this winter to seek help."
Mr Yates says it is now a "huge relief" to be able to heat his home more cheaply, as a result of the energy-saving measures.
He said: "The heating doesn't need to be on long before it gets the whole house warm and it stays warm. The walls are warm, so am I. And I know I can afford my bills now, which is a huge relief."
Nationally there are 5.5million households who are classed as living in fuel poverty, which means they need to spend 10 per cent or more of their household income on energy in order to achieve a warm and healthy environment indoors.
Between 1996 and 2004 the number of households living in fuel poverty fell from 5.1million to 1.2million. But in recent years, between 2007 and 2008, fuel poverty has increased as a result of increases in the price of domestic energy.
Cold and damp conditions can exacerbate cardio-vascular disease, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. And they can also lower resistance to respiratory infections and impair lung function.
Across the Stalybridge and Hyde constituency it has been estimated that there are 50 excess winter deaths each year.
"It is shocking to think there are still so many people who struggle to keep their homes warm," said Mr Reynolds.
"Living in homes that are cold and damp can have a serious impact on health and well-being. And every year there are a number of excess winter deaths across Stalybridge and Hyde. But this campaign shows that there is help available."
Commenting on this year's Warm Homes Campaign, Jenny Saunders, chief executive of National Energy Action, said: "The most important message this year is that there is help out there for vulnerable households.
"I urge everyone to contact the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 to get help and advice on staying warm in their home this winter without the fear of fuel debt and ill health."
PUblished on December 8, 2010