The report, A Shock to the System: Electrical Safety in an Ageing Society, reveals that current housing stock puts vulnerable individuals at risk and is unfit for people to age safely in their own homes - with those in low-income households or rural areas most affected. A lack of new builds combined with an ageing population compounds the problem.
Almost two thirds of households of couples aged 60 plus fail to meet basic electrical safety standards - being without such life-saving devices as a modern fusebox, residual current device, circuit breakers and PVC wiring. With over 350,000 people seriously injured by electricity every year - and the over 60 age group ten times more likely to die in a fire than someone aged 17 to 24 – electrical safety is a fundamental requirement in an ageing population.
Older people are disproportionately at risk because they are living in their properties for longer. This often results in greater gaps between comprehensive checks and electrical installations and appliances also tend to be older. 42% of householders who have lived in their property for 30 or more years live in non-decent accommodation.
Electrical Safety First is calling central and local Government to:
- Ensure all housing meets the Decent Homes Standard to prevent injuries and deaths from electrical hazards.
- Make it mandatory for private landlords to ensure electrical installations are checked every 5 years.
- Ensure tenants are protected so they can report electrical hazards to landlords without fear of eviction.
- Target more ‘at risk’ homes with free electrical safety checks – for example, those of older people who have lived in the same property for a long period of time.
- Work with the voluntary sector to ensure that older people can claim the benefits they are entitled to which can be used to carry out electrical repair work.
Phil Buckle, Director-General of Electrical Safety First, said:
“A million over 75s live in housing deemed non-decent by the Government’s own standards. A shortage of new builds means that housing stock will continue to age, electrics will continue to deteriorate and vulnerable people will continue to be put at risk. Most of us want to stay in our home as long as possible but we need central and local governments to act, to ensure elderly people can maintain their independence by living in safe and decent houses.”
Baroness Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre, who authored the report on behalf of Electrical Safety First, added:
“As our population ages we are witnessing older people living independently at home. So it is vital that every effort should be made to make the home environment as safe as possible. Our Inquiry found, however, that too many older people live in poor housing conditions potentially putting them at risk of electrical harm. And increasing numbers of people with dementia need to be confident that their homes are as hazard-free as possible. With a million older people living in non-decent homes, we need a concerted effort from central government and local authorities to rectify this”.
The new report also indicates other barriers to older people being electrically safe, ranging from a fear of letting strangers into their homes to carry out essential maintenance work, to the cost of hiring tradespeople - all of which mean hazards may go unnoticed. Dementia, in particular, can increase safety concerns, as problems with memory and confusion can mean electrical appliances are used in an unsafe manner.
To address these issues, Electrical Safety First has produced a free leaflet offering tips and advice on home safety. Some basic safety issues can be identified and addressed through a simple visual check of a home, so the Charity has also produced a free smartphone app to help you do this. For more information, to download the booklet or access the app, visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/agesafe.