Whilst many associate poverty with the developing world, it is a persistent problem which plagues millions of families in the UK.
‘Fuel poverty’ is an inability to sufficiently or adequately heat and light a household, and the government considers those who are forced to spend 10% or more of their income on housing fuel to be experiencing fuel poverty. Elderly people who live alone make up a large proportion of those who experience fuel poverty in the UK.
It is estimated that more than five million households in the UK, almost 20% of all households in the UK, suffer from fuel poverty, which is the highest rate in all of Western Europe. Around 30,000 people in the UK die each year due to the typically low temperatures in winter. Surprisingly for some, the majority of deaths are not caused by extremely low temperatures, but rather by respiratory and cardiovascular conditions brought on or exacerbated by exposure to consistently low temperatures, even if they are relatively mild.
Those who experience fuel poverty and those who lack access to adequate shelter, such as the homeless, are the most at risk of developing illnesses as a direct result of the cold winter weather and so their level of vulnerability must be met with adequate support to avoid preventable deaths.
Organisations such as Muslim Aid are providing homeless and elderly people in the UK essential items to keep warm throughout the winter months. The demand to support those on our very doorsteps is very high, but more needs to be done.
The cost of fuel is set to increase in the near future, and so the issue of fuel poverty will also escalate. From campaigning to keep fuel costs down to donating to a charity that works with those directly affected such as Muslim Aid, there is more that we can do together as communities and as individuals.
Sara Morad, Information and Public Affairs Officer, Muslim Aid