Day Three: Dear David…this is what we are doing about it

Over the last four winters we have done our very best to tackle what is a hideous issue for many heating OIL users – OIL Fuel Poverty. Having completed some very important work with many charities – including AgeUK over the last winter – it was obvious that there is a massive void in the UK as no organisation exists that is dedicated completely to eradicating this one issue. Age UK’s Charity Director General, Michelle Mitchell makes the case perfectly: ‘Many of our poorest and most vulnerable older people live in the country and have little choice, but to use heating oil to keep warm. A significant number can’t afford the hundreds of pounds they have to pay up front and simply do without, often, in the coldest months of the year.’ She goes on to say that those living in the coldest homes cost the NHS over £1.3 billion – and that is just in England. In other words many see this as a massive problem, but none of the organisations that work to eradicate Fuel Poverty have the level of expertise, knowledge or even the practical resource required to specifically help those who are fuel poor and use Heating OIL. Step forward Marion Lathar!
OIL Fuel Poverty Solutions – Marion Lathar is in the midst of launching a brand new social enterprise that will act as a resource and a hub for ALL charities, social enterprises and good causes working to eradicate Fuel Poverty, but that have no specialist knowledge about those using Heating OIL. She will be stepping into a vacuum that only she could fill. It has been an extraordinary pleasure to both work with Marion and to watch her confidently gain real expertise in this subject during her four years with CBL. We know we have saved lives together in that time. Marion is about to launch something that will go on to save thousands more.  
What next? The two organisations will be completely separate, but there are many ways in which we will be able to work together as allies and I look forward to developing this on many levels this winter. Further to this we will collaborate with as many organisations as we can as we seek to eradicate this pernicious issue. No doubt when we meet you will want to collaborate with us too.

Day Two: Dear David…what does Fuel Poverty mean to you?

It is a term that has become part of Government’s daily parlance, a media label, a campaigning tool and a source of never ending statistics. But what is Fuel Poverty?

It is not a label or a term, it is not a category or a tool. These are all faceless, lifeless, intangibles. Fuel Poverty is extremely tangible; in fact it is so real for millions of people in this country, our country, that it literally impacts every area of their life – negatively. Worse than that, it is a serial killer. Age UK should know, they have been working to tackle it for a long time and recognise the link between winter deaths and not being able to afford to heat your home: “Every winter, tens of thousands of older people die or become seriously ill in the UK because of the cold. The personal cost to families affected is incalculable – an unexpected hospital admission, facing the need for additional care services or even the premature death of a loved one.” They estimate the cost to the NHS is £1.3 billion a year – in England alone! 

So today I signed the Energy Bill Revolution petition – via the Age UK site. Go and take a look at the remarkable list of organisations behind this movement. Some of the Big Six have signed it! Lots of other large organisations like Asda, Barnardos, Greenpeace, Unison and so on. It tells me whether my MP is supporting it or not. You’ll be getting my email, because apparently – unlike 196 others – you aren’t. Surely that can’t be right can it? It seems like such a proactive thing to do to become part of a movement that cares and that should be able to do something.

So I asked a question: what does Fuel Poverty mean to you? To me it is many things and they are all completely real: it is fear, it is loneliness, it is the sense of being left behind by a society that has so much wealth and yet nobody cared enough. And then, very sadly, it often becomes a statistic.