Challenge Poverty Week 2019 blog on fuel poverty and health

Blog by Kate Cunningham, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Energy Action Scotland                                                                   

In recent years we have seen a refocusing of policy away from health as the descriptor for our desired state of being to wellness and wellbeing as a wider encompassing of all that is important and indeed possible for us as human beings in Scotland.

We are living longer, often with complex conditions that we can manage ourselves, locally and over a lifetime. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that we are compromised as individuals and as a society by a decade of austerity, draconian changes to the UK welfare system and an economic downturn which have trapped many families and individuals in powerful and relentless currents of poverty.

What is wellbeing and wellness to people living with the perpetual stress of lack? How profound is that lack when it includes the most basic of commodities and services? We would be appalled by the thought of living without a water supply but for too many households in Scotland rationing or living without an energy supply is shockingly common.

We rightly prioritise obesity as a threat to our public health but fail to acknowledge the uncomfortable but often vital lifeline provided by cheap takeaway food in areas where people cannot afford to energy required to cook hot food.

We rarely hear about the 7 people in Scotland who lose their lives every day of winter to fuel poverty.  We talk about Scotland having a rights based approach to policy and services but where in the debate is the right to a warm, dry home?

Home is the very foundation of our wellbeing. Home is the lifeblood of our wellness, our sense of self and of safety and security. It is our refuge in adversity and our sanctuary.

A home should be our basic right as citizens of Scotland and we are delighted to support the call from our colleagues at Shelter who work tirelessly to make this happen.

But more than that we need an adequate standard of living. An adequate home supports our wellbeing and doesn’t damage it. A warm, dry home lets people live happier, healthier lives, it helps young people prosper and grow, older people remain independent for longer. It reduces the pressure on services, especially health and properly maintained it helps achieve our energy efficiency targets to reduce global warming.

In a Scotland that prides itself on doing things differently let’s make warm, dry homes for everyone the foundation on which we build our shared future wellbeing.