12.3% of children living in energy poverty

By Padraic Daly

Currently, 12.3% of children are living in substandard homes according to a report from Saint Vincent De Paul (SVP).

Published on Tuesday, the report titled Growing Up in the Cold, found that over 140,000 children are living in homes with unsafe defects such as damp and rot, or are living in a household that is unable to attain an acceptable standard of warmth and energy at an affordable cost, known as energy poverty.

The report also found that 11% of households with children were in arrears on their utility bills. Half of these children are living in families that are entirely dependent on welfare payments.

The report analyses a sample of 9,000 five-year-old children. It found that living in sub-standard conditions can lead to an increase of health conditions such as asthma and increased antibiotic use in young children.

Speaking about the report, Dr Tricia Keilthy, Head of Social Justice at SVP said: “This report clearly shows that children are one of the groups most exposed to the risk of energy poverty and that growing up in a cold home has a distinct negative impact on a child’s health.

“The findings suggest that policy levers to alleviate energy poverty and improve the quality of the housing stock will lead to significant health benefits and a reduction in health expenditure in the future”

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Eoin Ó Broin brought the findings to the Taoiseach: “This is simply not good enough. The Government’s failure to resource the enforcement of minimum standards is leaving tens of thousands of people, including thousands of children, living in the cold and its failure to properly fund the maintenance of council housing is leaving thousands of the State’s tenants in unacceptable conditions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, responded that he was not aware of the report, but that the Government was trying to remedy the situation: “The fuel allowance will go up again in a few weeks in January. We are investing in retrofitting social housing to make sure we improve the quality of that housing and make those homes warmer. New building standards mean that pretty much all new buildings and new homes are near zero-energy buildings.

“We are seeing significant progress in reducing poverty, including child poverty, and deprivation in recent years.”

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