Local MP visits day care centre to highlight issue of cold homes

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Back row, L to R: Alan Oade and Brian Williams (centre volunteers), Maria Vicente (centre manager), Alan Whitehead MP, Peter Bennie (Age UK Southampton), Amy Liff (Age Concern Hampshire), Adam Goulden (the Environment Centre (tEC)) Front row, L to R: Padwell day centre users Colin, Mike, Eileen and Betty

A cold wind was blowing and the rain was falling yet again but the mood was warm at Southampton’s popular day care centre, Padwell Road, when local MP for Southampton Test Alan Whitehead dropped in to visit some of the city’s older residents last Friday.

Every day, 30 of the city’s physically and mentally frail older people come to the Padwell centre to enjoy good company, lots of activities and a warming lunchtime meal.

Colin Laker (64), Mike Preston (75), Eileen Humpleby (91), and Betty Lloyd (89), pictured above, have all found the day centre a godsend. Some users have even christened it Costa Padwell, because it’s where they feel on a welcome holiday from the worries of daily life.

But this was more than a social visit. Scarves were donned and placards waved in support of the charity Age UK’s national campaign to highlight the urgent need to ensure warm homes for all, especially older people. Age Concern Hampshire runs the centre, working closely with Age UK.

Peter Bennie, the new chief officer of Age UK Southampton presented Alan with a hand-knitted scarf to highlight how much keeping warm matters at this time of year, for older people in particular.

“We are really grateful to Alan for coming along and showing support for Age UK’s campaign for warm homes,” he said. “The charity is calling on the government to commit to a major programme of investment to make millions of homes much more energy efficient.  It’s the only way to ensure warmer homes and lower bills for everyone.”

“Tens of thousands of older people in the UK die prematurely every winter, and more than a million older people are unable to afford enough heating for their homes. In Southampton alone, 100-150 people aged 65 and over die unnecessarily every winter.

“At the same time, nearly ten thousand households in the city spend over 10% of their income on fuel to keep warm. For them, ‘fuel poverty’ often boils down to a choice between heating and eating.”

As senior manager of the Environment Centre (tEC) Adam Goulden explains: “Homes with solid concrete walls are particularly hard to keep warm, and Southampton has lots of them, all part of a major rebuilding of the city after it was badly bombed in World War II.”

“But instead of speeding up our warm home efforts, nationally we’re slowing down. Loft insulation can make a huge difference, but UK retrofits plummeted by 93% between 2012 and 2013, while work to insulate solid walls with special cladding fell by nearly 80% in the same period.

“Yet we all know that energy-efficient homes are the only real way to prevent fuel poverty in the long term, especially for older people who are at home much of the day.”

Alan Whitehead, who also chairs two parliamentary committees on environment issues, thinks that long term planning is the answer. “Across the UK, we have over 2 million fuel-poor households,” he points out. “We badly need in a long-term, co-ordinated strategy to upgrade this country’s dreadful housing stock, and that’s what I’m pressing for.”

Sources: Excess Winter Mortality in England and Wales, 2012/13, ONS, published 26 November 2013.

Practical advice:

If you live in Southampton and are struggling to keep warm this winter, you can:  
  • Call Age UK Southampton’s Money Matters service on 023 80368 636. The charity has teamed up with the Environment Centre (tEC) to offer people aged over 50 lots of good practical advice about keeping your home warm and your fuel bills manageable
 
  • Call the Environment Centre (tEC)'s freephone advice line on 0800 804 8601. The organisation offers practical advice about how you can live sustainably, including keeping your home warm, conserving energy, and avoiding polluting our environment.
And if you are interested in day care for yourself or someone you know:
  • Padwell Road Day Centre (T: 023 8022 7166) provides day care for the older people of Southampton city centre, including social and craft activities, hairdressing, laundry, bathing and podiatry services. Funded by Southampton City Council and run by Age Concern Hampshire, working closely with Age UK, it is currently managed by Maria Vincente
 

Press release from Age UK Southampton
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