FIGURES showing a disproportionate amount of older people are facing dangers from electrical fires have been highlighted.
Gil Paterson MSP has thrown his weight behind Electrical Safety First campaign’s to raise awareness of dangers facing older people.
Injuries caused by electrical faults cost Scottish taxpayers around nearly £9 million – and around a third of that money goes to people age 60 or more, who make up just 18 per cent of Scotland’s population.
The Clydebank and Milngavie MSP said: “in Scotland, people age 60 or older make up less than a fifth of our population but they account for well over a third of the injuries and deaths caused by electricity.
“This is even more important in Clydebank and Milngavie where people aged 60 plus make up 24 per cent of the population.
“Given the fact we have an ageing population, and most fires in Scottish homes arise from electricity, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed urgently.”
A report produced by the charity -- Age Safe Scotland: Electrical Safety in an Ageing Society -- found that injuries caused by an electrical fault costs Scottish taxpayers around £8.9 million each year, yet a third of this (£3 million) is spent on older adults – who represent 18 per cent of the total population.
To put this in perspective, the average cost of a hospital admission for someone over 65 is comparable to the weekly cost of 28 people living in a care home.
The report also shows that most (72%) of older people are owner-occupiers, whose homes often lack important electrical safety features. Critically, Scotland’s quality standards for social housing and the private rented sector don’t apply to people who live in, and own, their home.
But even if they don’t remain under their own roof, older people are still at risk, as Scottish care homes are not legally required to carry out mandatory electrical safety checks. Yet in 2014-2015, there were 81 fires with an electrical source in Scotland’s care homes and the number of fires in the sector has increased over the last five years.
Gil added: “Most older people want to remain in their own homes but as the Electrical Safety First report makes clear, unsafe electrics can make that a very risky business.
“Our ageing population will see a significant increase in age-related illness and frailty with, for example, growing numbers suffering from dementia – and this report also found that electrical safety is a key issue for carers when leaving a person with dementia on their own. We have a duty of care to our older people and I applaud Electrical Safety First for highlighting this issue.”
The Charity’s report makes a series of recommendations to the Scottish Government, including a call for free, five yearly electrical safety checks for all households with one person of pensionable age paid for by the power companies. It has also recommended mandatory checks in the social housing and care sectors and argued for the installation of Residual current devices (RCDs) - which rapidly cuts the current to reduce the risk of electric shock – in all PRS homes.
Phil Buckle, Director General of Electrical Safety First, said: “Over the last 6 years we have made over £90K available to Care and Repair Agencies in Scotland, to improve electrical safety in older people’s homes.
“But as this report makes clear, there is much more that needs to be done to protect Scotland’s ageing population. We hope the Scottish Government will take note and act on its recommendations.”