A new report from charity Electrical Safety First, in association with Swansea University, has found that older people in Wales are disproportionately at risk of experiencing an electrical fire in their homes, with people aged 80 and over at least four times more likely than any other age group to be a casualty in an electrical fire.[i]
More than half of accidental house fires in Wales are caused by electricity, with faulty or misused appliances a major cause. Its ageing society means that the number of people aged 80 or more is projected to double by 2035 and an estimated 50,000 people aged 65 or over could be living with dementia in Wales by 2025, with problems of memory loss associated with the condition increasing the risk of electrical accidents in the home.[ii]
Older people understandably want to stay living independently in their own homes for as long as possible. However, concerns about the cost of repairs and a lack of awareness of electrical risks can lead to people living in homes that have major electrical safety hazards.
Around 80% of older people in Wales own their own homes[iii], most of which are older properties that have never had an electrical safety check. Older people are also likely to use older electrical appliances and rely on electric heaters and blankets, particularly in the winter, without having any fire safety equipment.
There is an inequality in the way that electrical safety is legislated, depending on the tenure of a property. Whilst the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) specifies minimum requirements for safe housing in the social sector, there is no legal obligation for owner occupiers to maintain their installations or check electrical appliances, and only a recommendation for five-yearly electrical checks in privately rented properties.
The Charity is calling on the Welsh government to provide a free five-yearly electrical safety check for every household with an owner or renter in Wales aged over 80.
Robert Jervis-Gibbons, Public Affairs Manager, said:
“With an ageing population in Wales, we have found that older people are significantly more at risk than other age groups when it comes to electrical fires in the home. Older people in Wales represent over a third of electrical fire casualties, with people aged over 80 at least four times more likely than other age groups to have been a casualty in these fires. We are calling on the Welsh Government to do more to protect older people in Wales, to enable them to stay living safely in their own homes for as long as possible”.
Electrical Safety First recommends that:
- The Welsh Government considers funding a scheme to provide free five-yearly home electrical safety checks for people aged over 80, regardless of the tenure of their property. This would cost a maximum of £5million each year.
- Local authorities work with care providers to carry out additional home visits to people aged over 80 in order to identify risks and prevent electrical fires and accidents
- Current initiatives undertaken by fire and rescue services for free home fire safety checks in Wales must be expanded with a focus on electrical hazards
- Regulations for five-yearly electrical safety checks must be introduced in the private and social rented sectors in Wales
As we move into the winter months, the Charity also asks everybody to check on their older relatives and neighbours and look out for basic electrical hazards in their homes.
You can find out more about electrical safety for older people at: /guides-and-advice/for-older-people/
Download the full report at: electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/saferhomeswales
For more information please contact:
Sophia Alipour T: 07866 702069 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Jervis-Gibbons T: 07970 091373 E: email@example.com
Notes for Editors
- Electrical Safety First is a UK charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity. More information can be found at electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk
- How Can We Keep Older People in Wales Safe? is a report by Electrical Safety First in association with Swansea University, prepared by Associate Professor Sarah Hillcoat‐Nallétamby and Dr. Alexandra Sardani, Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research/Centre for Innovative Ageing Swansea University.
- Electrical Safety First has estimated the cost of offering free five-yearly electrical safety checks to people aged over 80. The policy should cover householders where one person aged over 80 owns or rents the property and their name appears on the deeds/tenancy agreement. (Based on a population of 166,000 people aged over 80 in Wales, all living alone, and a cost of £150 for the electrical safety check, 166,000 x £150.00 = £24,900,000 over five years.)
- All data is an analysis by Swansea University from that provided by the Welsh Government.
[i]How Can We Keep Older People in Wales Safe? Electrical Safety First in an ageing society (Wales), p10
[ii] Ibid, p18
[iii] ibid, p38