Campaigners protested in freezing conditions outside Parliament today (19th Jan) against the huge numbers struggling and even dying from the cold.
NPC calls for new plan for a living wage & pension to end Winter deaths scandal
The National Pensioners’ Convention, Fuel Poverty Action, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and others came together to hold a minute’s silence outside Parliament at 12pm to mark those represented in the latest annual ‘excess winter deaths’ figures for England and Wales.
Minute’s Silence for Excess Winter Deaths Scandal
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that 13,400 more deaths occurred in the winter period (December 2021 to March 2022) compared with the average of non-winter periods.
But speakers including Lord Prem Sikka, Rt. Hon. John McDonnell MP and NPC General Secretary Jan condemned the figures – and Jan Shortt questioned their accuracy, whose announcement has twice been delayedby ONS since last November.
Jan Shortt said: “At a time of rocketing food and fuel prices, we will be calling for review of the accuracy of the figures, which given the recent national/UK stats for excess deaths seem rather low.
“That said, the numbers dying from cold related illness in the UK in this days and age is shameful.
“The government needs a new vision and a new plan to show people across this country that they can have a living wage, and a living pension to enable them to pay their bills and have a decent standard of living.”
The groups are also collectively demanding the UK government ban forced prepayment meter (PPMs), which are making the current fuel poverty crisis even worse. The government has come under increasing pressure to address the issue since an investigation by the ‘I’ paper revealed that energy companies have secured half a million warrants to enter people’s homes and install meters since July 2021. Further reports have uncovered that only 72 warrant applications in total were refused by magistrates.
Citizens Advice also announced that 3.2 million people were disconnected due to being unable to top up prepayment meters in 2022, more than the previous 10 years combined. Grant Shapps has stated officials are ‘actively working’ on the issue but is yet to announce a concrete ban or moratorium.
Jan Shortt said the NPC would like to see those PPMs forcibly installed to be switched back to quarterly bills, and compensation paid to those whose meters have been illegally switched or wrongfully had their supply cut.
MP condemns government for causing ‘social murder’
Addressing the demonstration, which took place across from Parliament, the Rt Hon. John McDonnell MP said the failure of the government over the last 12 years had led to the current poverty crisis.
He said: “Excess deaths are more fittingly described as social murder because they are allowing people to die unneccarily, and not providing them with the means to survive.”
Jan Shortt, General Secretary, the National Pensioners’ Convention said: “It’s shameful that anyone in this country should die as a result of the cold. Yet tens of thousands more will do so if the government does not act as a matter of urgency.”
Jan added: We cautiously welcome Business Secretary Grant Shapps’ announced intention to stop forced transfers to pre-payment meters, which is a step in the right direction. But we will monitor just how successful that is and what his intentions would be for energy providers who ignore it.”
Ruth London, Fuel Poverty Action Co-Founder, said of Pre-payment Meters: "We need an outright ban, and urgent removal of the hundreds of thousands of meters that have been installed where they are not safe or practical in defiance of suppliers' licence conditions. The energy suppliers were quick to find men to drill out locks and break into homes to install these meters, now they must act quickly to take them out. People are being left in the cold and dark even when they are dependent on heat or power for disability aids, medical equipment, light or charging phones. Every delay will lead to deaths."
The protestors marched with a coffin bearing the latest excess deaths figure to Downing Street, where the presented a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling for immediate action on the issue. (COPY of LETTER downloadable below)
Download the press release
Download the letter to the PM