Chilling death statistics

It seems that only Metro picked up the fact that:

Death rates are believed to have been driven up by more than 5,000 by the bitterly cold March.

Most people are shocked by it. The usual questions of developed world, 21st century society and this day and age follow. For months, if not years, people who rely on benefits to survive (and that includes low paid workers) have been saying that we have to choose between heating and food. No matter what we choose, we will suffer. Nobody believes us because it is just so removed from the majority’s experience. It is much easier to imagine having the wealth of Iain Duncan Smith or David Cameron.

The problems with keeping our houses sufficiently heated is also down to the country’s obsession with listed buildings. Most of them should have been torn down about 100 years ago. They do not offer proper ventilation or insulation. Their poor state of repair does not help either. Insisting that people live with draughty single-glazed wooden sash and case windows is inhumane. All that in the name of preserving history – so that you can look up and see my gorgeous windows in all their 1900s glory. I hope the bubble wrap and tin foil don’t put you off. I would not like to offend your aesthetic sensitivities with my poverty.

You can do the cavity wall and loft insulation and draught-proof to your heart’s content but your single glazed windows will let you down. We have bubble wrap and tinfoil on our windows. There are heavy curtains and blinds. We even had secondary glazing installed (a charity paid for it) but it hardly helped. We have an efficient boiler. All the savings were wiped out by the rising energy prices in the last two years. We are on the cheapest tariff available to us. There is only so many layers you can put on where our room temperature is about 14 degrees.

A comment on Metro’s Facebook page shocked me to the core. Heather Hickman said:

Its called mother nature and evolution. Survival of the fittest.

It makes me wonder what kind of person she is. Would she really tell her father crippled by arthritis made worse by the cold to shuffle it because that is the natural order of things? Would she tell her shivering five-year-old that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

The state helps the poorest with heating costs, some will say. It’s unfair – we have to pay for it ourselves, the strivers will chip in egged on by IDS and Osbourne. I miss the times when I was working for a lot of reasons. One of them is that the twelve hours outside the house meant that heating was paid for by someone else. Now I would have to put it on for at least 10 hours every day as I don’t leave the house and there simply isn’t enough money.

Some benefit claimants are entitled to cold weather payments – a one-off boost of £25. However, to receive one, the temperature in your postcode area must be zero or below for seven consecutive days. Apparently, this year we did not qualify – the temperatures hovered around one degree. Last year we would have received two payments if it wasn’t for the fact that we were on contribution-based benefits.

People born before July 5 1951 might qualify for winter fuel payments where £100-300 is automatically transferred to their accounts every winter. These do not depend on temperature.

So, as ever, we are not in it together. If we were, it would be much warmer.

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