South Yorks: Thousands of children denied help to keep warm

Over 110,000 children living in Yorkshire and the Humber in poverty are missing out on crucial help that could keep them warm, shocking new analysis by The Children’s Society reveals.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 7th March 2014, 6:00 am

More than half of all children in poverty in the UK -- nearly two million -- are in families that are not getting the Warm Home Discount. This provides a £135 annual rebate on their fuel bills - enough to cover a typical family’s energy bills for a month.

The Children’s Society argues that this crucial support would help put an end to parents having to make harsh choices between giving their children a balanced meal and turning the heating on.

This spring, the government has the opportunity to make sure no child has to grow up in a cold home when it reviews its fuel poverty strategy and consults on the future of the Warm Home Discount.

The Children’s Society is calling on the government to make the Warm Home Discount automatically available to all families with children who are living in poverty.

Although the government last week announced that it was extending the Warm Home Discount under its new child poverty strategy, in reality this will only increase the amount of time the programme runs by a year to 2015-2016. It does nothing to help the millions of children in need who are still missing out.

In Behind Cold Doors: The chilling reality for children in poverty, The Children’s Society found that more than three million families were likely to cut back on food this winter so they can pay their energy bills.

And of the five million families that said that they were likely to turn their heating down because of the cost, more than half said they were worried that their children would become ill as a result. Our research shows cold homes can increase the chances of children having respiratory and other health problems.

The Children’s Society’s Chief Executive Matthew Reed said: “It is alarming that huge numbers of children in Yorkshire and the Humber are growing up in a cold home. The scale of the problem, as these figures show, is truly appalling. The government must take decisive action now to move children in from the cold and help stop their parents from having to make this terrible choice between heating and eating.

“By making the Warm Home Discount automatically available to all children living in poverty, the government can give these families a lifeline to help them out of poverty, and they should do it now.”

New analysis commissioned by The Children’s Society from the Association for the Conservation of Energy shows that a typical couple with two children would now need to spend £1403 per year in order to heat their home adequately. This is more than 10% of the income of a family with two children on out of work benefits.