People living in rural parts of the UK are more likely to struggle to keep warm during the colder months because their homes tend to be older and less well insulated, making them harder to heat effectively.
More than 2.3 million people living in rural areas are also over 65* and so at greater risk of developing health problems such as respiratory conditions, which are made worse by cold temperatures.
With many of these vulnerable people isolating during the Covid-19 pandemic, and over half of over 75s currently living alone, there are fears that many might not be getting the support they need to keep warm and well this winter.
In fact, in a recent survey 4.2 million adults revealed they are 'often or always lonely' compared to 2.6 million before the pandemic.
In response OFTEC, which represents the liquid fuel heating industry, including those on oil heating, is urging everyone to regularly check up on family and friends who could be at risk this winter and has created a checklist of key things to look out for.
- Ensure main rooms are heated to at least 21°C with other commonly used rooms kept at no less than 18°C.
- Make sure the heating system is working efficiently by adjusting heating timers as the weather changes to ensure the heating comes on at the correct time.
- For those that rely on oil or LPG, check there is sufficient fuel in the tank to last through winter. If it needs topping up, use a reputable firm, which for oil means a member of the UK & Ireland Fuel Distributors Association (UKIFDA) who will follow strict safety regulations.
- Make sure the boiler has recently been serviced by an OFTEC (for oil or solid fuel) or GasSafe (for mains gas or LPG) registered technician to check it is working correctly and efficiently. If your boiler does breakdown over winter, you can find your nearest local registered technician here.
- Ask if they are aware of energy payment and winter saving schemes available to them. There is support to help vulnerable households with heating bills over the winter. Visit https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/heating to find out more.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, commented: With the expense of Christmas and now the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, this time of year can be a real struggle for many people. As a result, some households may resort to turning down their heating to save money.
While we must stick to the Government's social distancing rules, we must not forget these vulnerable households. It is more important than ever to check family, friends and neighbours are keeping warm and that their heating system is working correctly. A quick phone call over the festive period or even downloading and sharing our checklist could make all the difference.
*Statistical digest of Rural England Data, November 2019
* Office for National Statistics, General Lifestyle Survey