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Wales’ winter of woe: Daily deaths due to cold homes

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A RECENT shocking report by Greenpeace UK has unveiled a grim statistic: three lives are lost daily in Wales to the bitter cold of inadequately insulated homes. This harrowing figure comes in the wake of the Conservative government’s drastic reductions in home insulation funding, a decision made in 2013 that has since cast a long shadow over the nation’s public health and energy efficiency.

The report, which scrutinizes official data, points to an alarming toll of over 4,000 excess winter deaths in the last decade attributed to cold, damp living conditions. This spike in mortality coincides with former Prime Minister David Cameron’s contentious move to “cut the green crap,” effectively gutting subsidies for loft and wall insulation. The aftermath was immediate and severe, with government-backed installations plummeting from 2.3 million in 2012 to a mere 300,000 in 2013 across the UK, marking a nearly 90% decrease.

Despite the clear and present danger of cold homes, successive Conservative administrations have yet to adequately address the funding shortfall for energy efficiency measures. Last year’s figures are particularly damning, with only 160,000 installations taking place, a far cry from the needed numbers to combat this silent crisis.

In a dramatic display of protest and remembrance, Greenpeace activists transformed Victoria Tower Gardens, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament, into a symbolic cemetery. Hundreds of headstones, crafted from insulation boards, bore the names of the 70,463 individuals who have succumbed to cold-related deaths since 2013. Accompanying this poignant memorial was an eight-meter-long funeral wreath, starkly declaring, “Cold Homes Cost Lives.”

Paul Morozzo, a leading voice in Greenpeace UK’s campaign against fuel poverty, condemned the government’s inertia, highlighting the dire consequences of failing to upgrade the nation’s cold, damp, and draughty housing stock. The call to action is clear: an annual investment of at least £6 billion is imperative to end this national disgrace and stem the tide of avoidable deaths.

The UK’s housing, notorious for its lack of energy efficiency, stands as the least effective in Western Europe, exacerbating the plight of low-income families and contributing significantly to fuel poverty. Current estimates suggest 3.17 million UK households are ensnared in this predicament, with poorly insulated homes also imposing a staggering £850 million yearly burden on the NHS in England alone.

The environmental implications are equally dire, with residential housing accounting for approximately 14% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. A comprehensive national retrofit insulation scheme emerges as a crucial strategy in the battle against the climate crisis and the quest to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The protest also saw participation from representatives of Fuel Poverty Action, echoing the urgent need for government intervention to lower energy bills and combat fuel poverty through significant funding for home insulation.

In a twist of political irony, the Labour Party, once vocal in its commitment to investing the £6 billion annually advocated by Greenpeace, has recently dialed back its insulation funding promises by over 70%. Greenpeace now demands a reinstatement of these commitments in Labour’s forthcoming election manifesto, underscoring the critical role of political will in addressing this multifaceted crisis.

As the insulation boards from today’s protest find a second life in retrofitting an uninsulated home, the message is clear: the cost of inaction is measured in human lives. The time for decisive action and comprehensive policy overhaul is now, lest the cold homes crisis continues to claim its silent victims.

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RNLI prepare for summer with medical training exercise in Pembrokeshire

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RNLI lifeguards from the north Pembrokeshire team, volunteers from St Davids RNLI and St Davids Coastguard Rescue Team came together at Whitesands beach on Thursday (18 April), for a multi-agency medical training exercise. Pembrokeshire RNLI lifeguards and St Davids volunteer lifeboat crew took part in a multi-agency medical training exercise alongside St Davids Coastguard Rescue Team in preparation for the upcoming summer season.

The Coastal Medicine programme was set up six years ago at the suggestion of clinicians from Hywel Dda University Health Board. The aim of the programme is train lifeguards, lifeboat crews and HM Coastguard teams in working collaboratively when responding to medical incidents on the coast.

Clinicians from Hywel Dda work with RNLI staff to design exercises simulating mass-casualty incidents on land and afloat. The exercises allow lifeguards, lifeboat crews and Coastguard teams to practise and test their rescue response and casualty care.

The simulated incident at Whitesands involved a medical incident at sea leading to a boat going out of control and ploughing through a group of swimmers causing multiple injuries. RNLI lifeguards responded to casualties on the beach while St Davids inshore and all-weather lifeboat crews dealt with the situation at sea. St Davids Coastguard Rescue supported RNLI colleagues as they would in a real-life scenario.

In total there were six casualties to treat, all of whom were given the immediate medical care by the teams on scene. As in a real-life scenario, they were then prepared to be handed over to the care of the Ambulance Service.

Roger Smith, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager said: ‘The scenario was based on a real-life incident, it’s so important that we train in dealing with challenging situations.

‘The RNLI lifeguards, lifeboat crew, and the Coastguard rescue team worked really well together collaborating together to achieve the best possible result.

‘The feedback from all the participants was really positive, and our medical colleagues were very complimentary about the competence shown and the inter-agency co-operation.

‘This scenario training gives confidence to our lifeguards and lifeboat crews, and ensures the teamwork and communication is already in place ready for real-life incidents.’

Martin Charlton, an RNLI lifeguard in north Pembrokeshire said:

‘Last night’s exercise was a great opportunity for me and my colleagues on the lifeguard team to upskill ahead of the summer season.

‘We regularly attend incidents in the season that require a multi-agency response. These scenarios are a brilliant opportunity to prepare for the the most challenging situations.

‘The team and I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise and feel better prepared for the season as a result.

‘It’s always a pleasure working alongside the Coastguard rescue team and the lifeboat as one crew.’

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Hub Cymru Africa announces Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel as its new host

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TEN years after the founding of Hub Cymru Africa partnership, the Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel will take over as the new host-partner, replacing the Welsh Centre for International Affairs.

Following 10 years as hosts of the Hub Cymru Africa Partnership, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) will be replaced as host partners by the Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel (SSAP). WCIA will continue to remain a member of the partnership.

The Hub Cymru Africa Partnership does important work in supporting the global solidarity sector, and the Wales and Africa Community. We will continue to do this.

SSAP has brought invaluable expertise to the Hub Cymru Africa partnership from inclusion, diversity and our ongoing Reframing the Narrative project. This next phase of the Partnership will build on this work into the future, with an African diaspora-led organisation at the helm.

Announcing the move, Head of Hub Cymru Africa, Claire O’Shea said: “We’re grateful for the leadership and role that WCIA has given to the partnership and the global solidarity sector over the last ten years.”

“As we continue our work to better represent and serve our partners here in Wales and in Africa, and implement our values of justice and anti-racism, it is right that SSAP steps in as the new host of Hub Cymru Africa.”

Fadhili Maghiya, CEO of SSAP said: “The Wales and Africa Programme has grown from strength to strength over the years. Built on mutuality, lifelong connections and learning from each other, the programme has grown into a vibrant sector working in global solidarity. Through the inclusion agenda and important projects such as the Race Equality Action Plan, the sector is always pushing boundaries and involving communities across Wales. 

“I’m looking forward to continuing this work and building on our successes as the new hosts of the Hub Cymru Africa Partnership.”

Dr Gill Richardson, Co-Chair of WCIA said: “I’d like to thank the amazing Hub Cymru Africa team for all they’ve done over the past 10 years that WCIA has had the privilege to host. We celebrate all that has been achieved in supporting the Wales and Africa community, led by its head, Claire O’Shea.

“This new phase of Hub Cymru Africa will see our close partner, SSAP, host the partnership. This is an important evolution in Hub Cymru Africa’s story. We are still supporting the Partnership, but now is the right time to hand on the baton of leadership. We look forward to supporting Hub Cymru Africa going from strength to strength in the future.”

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Bags of Books returns to Milford Haven and surrounding areas this Easter

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THE INFAMOUS Bags of Books is set to return to Milford Haven and surrounding areas over the Easter holidays.

Milford Haven School who launched the project with Milford Youth Matters over 3 years ago are continuing in their bid to improve literacy skills and encourage a love of reading for pleasure by giving away over 700 books.

Thanks to funding from the South Hook LNG Community grant they have purchased books for young people of all ages and reading abilities and will be hanging them on the fences of the schools in their catchment area.

The community are invited to come and choose a book from the following locations over the Easter holidays:

  • Neyland Community Primary School – Monday 25th March
  • Johnston Community Primary School – Tuesday 26th March
  • Coastlands Primary School – Wednesday 27th March
  • Gelliswick Primary School – Tuesday 2nd April
  • Milford Haven Community Primary – Wednesday 3rd April
  • St Francis Community Primary – Wednesday 3rd April

Milford Haven Secondary School will also hang over 150 books on their fence after the Easter Holidays on Wednesday 10th April for those in our community who cannot attend the other locations.

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