Readers’ letters - November 23

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Tackle fuel poverty and prevent winter deaths

The North West’s largest pensioner organisation, the North West Regional Pensioners Association (NWRPA), has called on the Government to launch a new fuel poverty commission to urgently address the scale of annual winter deaths among the country’s older population.

The call comes as official figures show an estimated 34,300 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2016/17 – the second highest number in the last five years.

This equates to 9,720 more people dying this winter than in 2015/16 and represents a 39.5 per cent increase.

Successive governments have simply ignored the problem of winter deaths amongst the older population and seem to have a policy of crossing their fingers and hoping things will improve.

Today’s figures show that this policy simply doesn’t work – in fact things are getting worse.

Using the Government’s official definition of fuel poverty, around 1.4 million older people in England are at risk. In addition, almost one in three older people live in homes with inadequate heating or insulation, making their homes more difficult to heat or keep warm.

In total, this accounts for around 3.5 million older people at risk or suffering from fuel poverty.

The key to tackling winter deaths is to make sure older people have got a well-insulated, warm home and the income needed to pay the fuel bills.

This is a basic requirement of what a decent society should do.

A fuel poverty commission should be set up as a matter of urgency with the task of finding solutions to this problem such as rolling out a more effective programme to insulate homes, building more suitable properties for older people, raising the winter fuel allowance and tackling the excessive profits of the big six energy companies.

Derek Barton


Bullying can be a problem for young carers

Anti-Bullying Week took place during November, aiming to raise awareness of how the effects of bullying can have a massive impact on all individuals, at school, work, college or socially.

Young people who have caring responsibilities for relatives or siblings are more likely to be bullied than their peers because of their family situation. It is estimated there are 700,000 young carers in the UK.

Many are vulnerable due to the stresses of caring for family members and many young carers spend 20 hours or more each week caring for their relative – cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and sometimes administering medication and looking after siblings too.

They can be left feeling isolated and unable to turn to anyone for help.

Being bullied adds to this and has a significantly detrimental effect on their mental health and wellbeing.

Schools do excellent work with young carers, but they need to know when a child is a young carer so they can spot signs if they’re being bullied.

There need to be quick referrals to young carer services, several of which across the North West are run by Barnardo’s, providing advice, emotional support and opportunities for young carers to take a break, spend time with other young carers and share their experiences.

Lynn Perry

Barnardo’s Regional Director

Government with no plan

Has keeping Labour out become the sole raison d’être of the Tory party? Or does the party have any other policies which will withstand the scrutiny of rational, disinterested thought?

Current policies fail, either in their concept – hard Brexit, fracking, austerity – or in the manner of their enactment – Universal Credit, education policy, public services.

There appears to be no foreign policy. When preservation of power becomes an end in itself, it’s time to go. When confusion and incompetence characterise a Government in the perception of the world, it’s time to go. When black is termed white, wrong is deemed right, failure is called success, it’s time to go.

David Cragg-James

Address supplied