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Insulation can keep pressure off health system - Community Energy Action

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Insulation keeps people out of hospitals and reduces the pressure on our health system. However, not enough people know about the insulation subsidies available, what the eligibility criteria are or feel they should not apply.

Community Energy Action (CEA) is a Canterbury charitable trust that can provide free insulation to low income homeowners in Canterbury and across the West Coast. In 2021, CEA’s figures showed that about half of its thousands of clients, covering all the demographics of the community last year, had a chronic health condition. "When we extrapolate the figures over the years that equates to tens of thousands of people that are now less likely to need a trip to the ED or spend any time in hospital because their houses are warmer and easier to heat, keeping them healthier," says Caroline Shone, Chief Executive of CEA Charitable Trust. "As we are now seeing substantial increases in the costs of living, this will put pressure on people’s budgets. Many will be inclined to save on heating costs by not turning on their heating or cannot afford to. What this will lead to, is colder houses, which in turn will create dampness and mould and ultimately can make people sick.

"People may think they have adequate insulation, when in fact our energy assessors find on checking it, that it has either compacted over the years or a thinner layer than is now recommended was installed. CEA’s assessors also find that tradesmen working in roof spaces quite often disturbed or damaged the insulation, which again causes issues. "Subsidies for insulation are a very good use of money. CEA’s research with the CDHB a few years ago showed that the money saved in health care was more than what was spent in insulation subsidies. Anyone who takes advantage of the subsidies is potentially doing the healthcare system a service."

Most clients have found their way to CEA by hearing about it through word of mouth. "We think it is fantastic that people are benefitting from our service and that they are telling all their friends and family. We often see neighbours coming to us after we insulated a house next door. "However, the concern is that only a handful of clients came to us through a referral from a health professional. We understand the pressures our health professionals are under and we are working tirelessly to find better pathways to ensure that patients are aware of the preventative measures such as insulation that could be considered to help with chronic cold-related illnesses."

GPs and other health providers can refer patients on to CEA through their usual referral systems. Even if people do not qualify for subsidies, CEA does free, no-obligation insulation checks and as a charitable trust works with people to get the best outcome for them without any commercial sales pressure.

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