Nine million spent Christmas in ‘Dickensian’ housing conditions, survey finds


More than 9 million adults will spend the Christmas and new year period living in cold damp homes, new figures show.

Over a quarter of people suffering from underlying health conditions are unable to heat their homes to a safe standard and a third of those with disabilities – 28 per cent – live in cold damp homes.

The figures from YouGov Direct for the Warm This Winter campaign reveal the growing depth of the energy bills crisis, especially among the most vulnerable.

Jonathan Bean, from Buckinghamshire, takes care of his asthmatic son and described it as a “daily battle” to keep their home free of mould and damp.

He said: “We have dehumidifiers and electric heaters running as much as we can afford to, but that still doesn’t keep the home any warmer than 12 degrees. We even had ice forming inside our double-glazed windows during the recent cold weather.

“Our electricity bills keep going up and while others who are ‘off the gas grid’ have had extra government support, we haven’t.”

According to a study, one in five homes are affected by damp and mould in Britain.

Earlier in November, a two-year-old died after “chronic exposure to harmful mould” in his family’s flat in Rochdale.

The research also revealed that people are not just concerned about their own welfare.

Nine per cent of those surveyed said they were worried about an older relative being exposed to the health impacts of living in a cold damp home and 27 per cent were worried about the impact of fuel poverty on their local community.

And despite government campaigns calling for people to save energy, 55 per cent said they had already implemented energy reduction measures before this winter, with 15 per cent already cutting back their energy use to the bare minimum necessary to stay safe.

Fears are mounting over a surge in fuel poverty (PA Wire)
Fears are mounting over a surge in fuel poverty (PA Wire)

Jacky Peacock from Advice for Renters, a charity working with those in fuel poverty in North London, added: “We used to read Dickens at Christmas with a sense of nostalgia, but now Dickensian conditions are back for those who can’t afford to heat their homes this winter.”

YouGov Direct interviewed 2,186 people between 20-21 December 2022. Results were weighted to be representative of the GB population.

People are having to be considerably more careful when using their heating (PA)
People are having to be considerably more careful when using their heating (PA)

Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition which is part of the Warm This Winter campaign, said: “As we get deeper into winter, our worst fears about rising energy bills are being realised.

“We are now a nation unable to keep itself warm, concerned for the well-being of our nearest and dearest and spending a festive season suffering in cold damp homes.”

Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition (Simon Francis)
Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition (Simon Francis)

The government spent £18m for an advertising campaign suggesting that citizens should spend 30 seconds to take small actions like turning down their boiler flow, switching off lights or reducing washing machine temperatures to tackle the energy crisis.

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