“As the cost of living has increased, we are concerned there will be more people this winter who may not be able to switch their heating on, putting them at greater risk from illness relating to the cold."
Councils along with their directors of public health are urging people to check on the most vulnerable as temperatures across the country plummet.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, is warning that some of the most vulnerable people in communities may be more at risk from the cold due to the rising cost of energy, with people putting on their heating less frequently than in previous years.
To protect those most at risk from soaring energy bills, councils are also providing warm spaces in libraries, community halls and various local venues, while also using them to offer services that promote longer-term resilience such as advice on debt, income and employment during the ongoing cost of living crisis.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued a cold weather alert lasting until Friday 16 December, with temperatures dropping enough to impact on people’s health.
Those who are most at risk from freezing temperatures are the elderly, those with respiratory conditions, circulatory disease and dementia. On average there are around 25,000 excess deaths during the winter period, with 85 per cent of these being from those aged 75 and over
The LGA is calling on the Government to ensure that data is shared with councils and the NHS to help to identify those at the greatest risk in local communities, particularly those not currently known to statutory agencies.
Council teams are on standby to help with everything from carrying out emergency household repairs like defrosting pipes and fixing frozen boilers to delivering hot meals and portable heaters, and will be checking in on elderly and vulnerable residents to make sure they are ok.
However, they have also urged people to check on their neighbours and anyone else they may know who may be particularly vulnerable from the effects of the cold.
Councils are best placed to support those who need it the most in their local communities and it is important that there is a joined up approach between the Government, health agencies and councils to deliver for the most vulnerable.
Data from the LGA’s Winter Resilience Survey has found that councils have stockpiled over 1.4 million tonnes of salt and are working around the clock to ensure roads and pavements are treated and safe for people to use.
Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board said:
“We all know that the significant drop in temperatures we are currently experiencing could bring about health risks to those who are most vulnerable in our communities.
“As the cost of living has increased, we are concerned there will be more people this winter who may not be able to switch their heating on, putting them at greater risk from illness relating to the cold.
“Councils and their local partners are doing all they can to support those at greatest risk, such as providing warm spaces and advice on how to make their homes more energy efficient and save money on bills. This needs to be backed up by the mainstream benefits system, so that people have sufficient means to meet their true living costs.
“Although council teams will be stepping up their efforts to support people who are more isolated over the coming days, everyone should check up on their neighbours and anyone they know who may be more vulnerable to the cold. It could help save lives.”