Excess winter deaths hit 63k – but NPC questions low 16% cold related figure?
Protestors march to Downing St over winter deaths –
with query on cold stats
Demonstrators rallied outside parliament today to protest over the thousands of mainly older and vulnerable people who are dying each winter.
The National Pensioners’ Convention joined with Fuel Poverty Action (FPA) to hand in letters to 10 Downing Street despite the winter weather to call on Prime Minster Boris Johnson to take urgent action on this national scandal.
The protest took place as the annual Excess Winter Mortality rates showed that a total of 63,000 people had died in England and Wales in 2020/21 – almost double the previously recorded figure. The Office of National Statistics, said 84% of the winter deaths in England (82% in Wales) were linked to Covid, claiming just 10,000 could be attributed to cold related illness. This would mean the cold related figure was the same as the previous year, even though the overall figures have doubled. Both the NPC and FPA question the ONS analysis and believe the cold homes figure should be higher.
Jan Shortt, NPC General Secretary commented: “These figures are truly shocking, but we believe that a large proportion of the numbers attributed to Covid - around 53,000 – may well also have been cold related.
“The NPC fears that a lot of the older, poorer and more vulnerable people who tragically died from Covid, would also have struggled to afford heating. This would be a terrible situation if they were suffering from Coronavirus and trying to keep warm – and it may have also contributed to their illness.
“We are calling for the Prime Minister to act and order a full analysis of the ONS figures to establish what the true breakdown is – and demand more action from the government to deal with the winter death crisis.”
The NPC – the UK’s largest campaign group for older people - believes the appalling number of pensioners and vulnerable people dying each winter in the 21st century is shameful. And we are calling, along with the FPA and the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, for the government to take urgent action on the issue.
Addressing the rally outside the parliament today, Lord Prem Sikka told protestors that low pensioner income for millions was the reason they could not afford to heat their homes. He criticised the government saying, while they claimed they could not find money to help pensioners, they could always find money for the banks.”
Lord Sikka said: “This is a very sad moment in that so many of our senior citizens have died from cold. It is scandalous. Successive governments have neglected the welfare of the current and future retirees. The average state pension is around £8,000 a year and is the only or the main source of income for the vast majority of retirees. At 25% of average earnings our state pensions is the lowest in the industrialised world and condemns retirees to a life of poverty and insecurity. Let us make a solemn pledge today to eradicate pensioner poverty.”
He was joined by new TUC President Sue Ferns, who said: “Our shocking toll of excess winter deaths among older people is a national scandal. It shames one of the richest countries in the world.
“Instead of ditching the pensions triple lock next year, the Government must take action to ensure that there is a decent state pension. And at a time when fuel prices are rising rapidly, urgent action is needed to tackle fuel poverty.
“But what we see instead is a government that hasn’t raised the winter fuel allowance since it was introduced almost a quarter of a century ago and thinks it’s acceptable to pass the bill for social care to the less well off.
“These are issues on which all generations should be united – the real culprit is austerity, and responsibility for that lies squarely with the government.”
NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt thanked the speakers and everyone who braved the freezing cold conditions today to demonstrate against the winter deaths in England and Wales. “No one should die in the 21st century in a rich country like ours because they can’t afford to heat their homes. Yet there are 2.1 million pensioners alone in the UK this winter who will have to choose whether to turn on the heating or buy food - just as rocketing inflation drives up cost of food and fuel.
“Despite this, the government are hitting our oldest and most vulnerable hard with a range of punitive measures, including suspending the triple lock so that our already paltry state pension will only rise by a few pounds. Add to this their shocking new social care cap clause that will force those who own their homes to sell up to pay for care when they are at their most vulnerable.
“The NPC hopes the Prime Minister and his government will listen to the growing number of their own MPs as well as the Opposition parties and take action to help our oldest and poorest before another winter takes its toll.”
Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action, added: "Deaths from fuel poverty in this wealthy country are not an act of God but an obscenity. They’re a result of deliberate policies on housing, fossil fuels, pensions, benefits, taxes, and wages, that cannot be allowed to stand."
“This demonstration is not just to MARK these deaths, not just an annual ritual to say we won’t forget them. Because these thousands of deaths are totally avoidable.
“The government says there is no money to save lives. Yet there is plenty of money.” the proceeded to outline sources of funds that could save thousands of lives.”
Repairing and insulating the UK’s notoriously leaky homes could make them warm, reduce bills and cut down carbon emissions. A new pricing structure could reverse the injustice which sees the people with least money paying most for energy.”
Figures & link to latest ONS Winter Mortality figures: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/excesswintermortalityinenglandandwales/2020to2021provisionaland2019to2020final
OFFICE FOR NATIONAL STATISTICS – WINTER MORTALITY FIGURES
An estimated 63,000 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in winter 2020 to 2021, 6.1 times higher than winter 2019 to 2020; the growth was mostly driven by the large number of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths in the non-winter months of 2020 (April to July) and the winter months of 2021 (December to March)."
The excess winter mortality index (EWMI) in England was significantly higher than all winters since the series began in 1991 to 1992.
In Wales the EWMI was significantly higher than every winter since 1991 to 1992 except 2017 to 2018.
COVID-19 was the leading cause of excess winter mortality in 2020 to 2021, accounting for 84.0% (England) and 82.9% (Wales) of all excess winter deaths.
NB: Most pensioners live on £10,000 a year or less, with only 545,000 of them paying tax at the higher rates, while around 6 million don’t earn enough to pay any tax at all.
Download the press release
Download the letter to the PM