Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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Our kids need a great home upgrade

Children have the right to a decent standard of living. Our well-ventilated homes are hurting them.

Alex Firth is senior child rights coordinator at Human Rights Watch.

Kids sleep in icy beds, household budgets hit by rising energy costs – here’s what to expect Reality for many Britons. A lot of houses in this country are old and airy.In fact, homes in the UK lose as much as three times faster More energy efficient homes than in Europe. The lack of proper insulation in our homes is having an impact on people’s human rights now – and, as our gas boilers burn fossil fuels and contribute to the climate crisis, so will the future.

Great home upgradeA civil society initiative launched by the New Economy Foundation has called for a massive scheme to improve Britain’s cold, wet and energy-inefficient homes. The campaign asks for central government funding, administered through local authorities, to upgrade the worst-affected homes by installing things like better insulation and double-glazed windows, as well as replacing dirty fossils like gas boilers with cleaner alternatives Fuel heating. like a heat pump. The UK government should fund this initiative.

The priority should be those most in need: the lowest income households, social housing or temporary housing. I recently interviewed low-income families living in substandard temporary housing, Human Rights Watch report. I have heard how colds continue to adversely affect children and their families. Poor quality of accommodation and inadequate protection from cold violate people’s right to housing and an adequate standard of living. In many cases, poor conditions also have knock-on effects on other rights, including the rights to education and health.

I met a 14-year-old boy and his mother who were placed by the local government on top of a tower in Waltham Forest, north London. When they moved in, there was only one radiator working and there were holes all over the window around the bed. The boy told me that the cold wind used to blow at night, so he had a hard time sleeping in the winter.

In another case, a 15-year-old girl lived in a flat in Wandsworth, south west London. The bedside wall in this building has metal parts that are rusted and cracked, allowing cold air to seep in. She began to have trouble breathing and was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia. Because of her illness, her mother sent her to live with her family elsewhere, and she missed two months of school.

High energy costs are a related issue. Earlier this year, the government raised price caps, dramatically increasing by 54 per cent what energy suppliers can charge in response to rising fossil fuel costs. In May, officials suggested the cap could be Increase An additional £800 a year, which could boost Number of households Fuel poverty is as high as 12 million.It is difficult to fully grasp the negative impact this will have on the household budgets of low-income people, but high energy costs are already causing The human right to an adequate standard of living Millions of people are at risk.

Before the cost of living crisis hit the headlines, the low-income families I interviewed were already struggling with inadequate benefits. Standing in line with kids at food banks is already a normal part of their lives, and now, things could get worse, and there’s no doubt that kids will bear the brunt of this crisis.A telling revelation was reports of households asking food banks for food that can be eaten coldbecause they are too expensive to even turn on the stove.

A final, equally pressing argument for upgrading UK homes is the climate crisis.Not much time left – approx. nine years Limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and prevent the worst consequences of climate collapse, according to the UN climate change panel.This The next few years will be the key to achieving this goal.Households are one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in the UK, with approximately 20% Total UK emissions. Upgrading them means everyone can live in a warm and comfortable home that doesn’t pollute the planet.

There are many reasons why the UK government should act now to address these issues. Children should feel warm and full at night when they go to bed. So far, the government has offered only empty promises or short-term solutions. Upgrading UK homes is a forward-looking and future-proof solution. It provides families with legal long-term security, not just a temporary solution, and will significantly improve the lives and rights of children up and down the country.

Image: iStock

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