New report evaluates success of the ‘Warm Homes, Healthy People fund’ of winter 2012 to 2013.
There are on average 24,000 excess winter deaths per year in England, many of which are preventable. The Warm Homes, Healthy People fund (WHHP), was established by the Department of Health, to support the aims of the Cold Weather Plan to protect individuals and communities from the effects of winter weather
The report was based on information provided by local authority officers who led last year’s WHHP projects via online surveys, interviews and local evaluation reports.
It identified the benefits of interventions targeted at people who may be more vulnerable to the effects of cold housing, including older people, young children and those living with long-term conditions. The report also highlighted some of the challenges faced by local authorities and their local community partners to reduce the levels of deaths and illness in their local area of due to cold housing.
The evaluation report found that:
- the fund supported a wide variety of projects including home energy efficiency advice and support, home safety checks, emergency heaters, benefit advice, gritting pavements and clearing snow from pathways, warm packs containing practical items to keep warm, and events to raise staff and community awareness of actions to reduce the harm from cold housing
- projects were targeted to a broad variety of vulnerable groups including older people, young families, people with mental illness or learning disabilities and homeless people
- projects had wider benefits beyond reducing harm related to cold housing including reducing social isolation, improving home safety, household budgeting, employment support, support for carers, community resilience, housing, carbon reduction and improving nutrition and exercise.
- identifying and supporting vulnerable people, particularly those not already in touch with statutory services remains challenging, and partnership working is crucial
- healthcare professionals have an important role in referring people in cold homes to sources of support
Dr Angie Bone, Cold Weather Plan co-ordinator at Public Health England, said:
The report demonstrates that local authorities and their partners used a variety of innovative ways to help reduce the health effects of cold housing for those most vulnerable in their communities.
It supports the case for year round preventative measures to prepare vulnerable people for the onset of cold weather, providing lots of examples of good practice and demonstrating the wider benefits of these kinds of interventions.
The report emphasises that the support of clinical commissioning groups, local authorities and health and wellbeing boards is essential to the continuation of these types of interventions.
The Department of Health, who ran the Warm Homes Healthy People fund in 2011 and 2012, have stated that the fund will not be repeated this year. The fund was established by them to support the aims of the Cold Weather Plan for England to protect the population from harm to health from cold weather. While the responsibility for the Cold Weather Plan has passed to Public Health England, the Warm Homes Healthy People fund has not.
Ring-fenced funding of £5.45 billion for 2013 to 2015 was made available to local authorities to address public health priorities, determined at the local level. In setting their priorities, local authorities must take into account the Public Health Outcomes Framework which has excess winter deaths and fuel poverty as indicators.
Public Health England published the 2013 edition of the Cold Weather Plan for England, in partnership with NHS England, the Local Government Association and the Met Office. The Plan sets out a series of actions to be taken by the NHS, social care and other agencies throughout the year, and in response to forecast or actual severe winter weather, and encourages local communities to support the most vulnerable in their area.