“Struggling to feed themselves”

Rising gas and electricity bills are hitting us hard. Targeted and timely support is needed.

JRF estimate that the number of people being pulled into deep poverty is set to double to around 200,000. People experiencing homelessness are finding everything more expensive, especially gas and electricity, and the removal of the energy cap has not yet hit.

This month our National Advisory Panel, made up of people with lived experience of disadvantage (including homelessness, mental health issues, substance misuse, offending and domestic violence and abuse) discussed what's happening to the cost of living, what issues people are facing or likely to face, and what can be done.

How is the rise in cost of living going to affect people?

“The effects on peoples mental and physical health will increase if you can’t afford to put the heating on, causing homes to become cold allows mould to grow which in turn is dangerous for people with health conditions and children having to sleep in these conditions.”

“It’s too cold to have people round.”

“Drug and Alcohol abuse is likely to increase as people seek "sanctuary" from their miserable lives.”

“Crime will also increase. Opportunistic ways of paying bills and paying for drugs and alcohol are likely to be key drivers. Also, in the worst weather conditions, a three month spell in jail may seem like heaven - food, shelter, clean kit is better than wet and cold. It is also likely that people, especially in multiple occupancy, will try to hijack power off a neighbour, especially a vulnerable one.”

What about other services?

“The demand for the NHS and Social Service Interventions will increase. People without proper heating, food and living in squalid conditions are bound to lead to more demands on the wider care sector.”

“We will see Food Banks become Fuel Bank providers too, we are heading for a national poverty crisis-if we aren’t already there!”

Charities are likely to be effected in a number of ways:

“Charitable giving is likely to be tightened as people simply do not have the money to give away. Especially critical for the smaller charities who do not have larger local government contracts / reserves.”

“Charity Workers will also be vulnerable to cost rises. Some will be forced to change jobs, others reduce hours on charity work in order to do part-time but higher paid work. We will probably see a reduction in volunteers needing to find additional income.”

“Charities will see extra costs to run their premises. The people they seek to help will become even more dependant as the costs that their clients face rise well ahead of UC and other benefits.”

What could be done?

Currently, the Government have responded to the crisis with the Warm Home Discount Scheme. But more needs to be done.

In particular, support needs to be targeted, timely and total, aimed at specific groups who are set to be impacted most and the organisations that are designed to support them.

“Targeting - a very saleable buzzword, but as we have already seen with COVID support measures large numbers of vulnerable people can still be missed out. Now they may get picked up after lobbying but as most will not have reserves, they will already have been pushed into unaffordable debt or other problems. Too little, too late. A good example is the cladding issue which does not tackle increased running costs, lack of insurance, lack of saleability etc. A lifeboat turning up after the ship has sunk and people have drowned is not a good result. Act now and act fast. There have already been months of warning.”

“One issue that energy suppliers could do is to give people who are struggling/vulnerable access to the cheapest tariffs- for example people who have meters fitted pay the highest charges when those paying D/D are the only ones who can access the lowest.”

“Private L/L’s need to play a part in energy efficiency- if properties have ill-fitting windows and doors and aren’t properly insulated then people are just wasting money trying to heat their homes- In my experience too L/Ls only have to provide one source of heat in a property so if a gas fire has been condemned they won’t replace it as long as there are radiators in that room- there needs to be an updated Gov strategy on insulation/energy efficiency.”

“Tinkering around the edges is of some help but if energy increases come out anywhere near predicted levels, saving £150 here or there will not come close to the real increases. Government rhetoric about sums being targeted need to be measured against the increases people are actually facing. If those increases cannot be covered, then they are worse off and depending on how large those numbers are, they will be sent over the edge.”

And finally, what do you think?

If you have lived experience of disadvantage, we’d love to hear what you think needs to be done and how we can make it happen. Please get in touch over email and we can arrange a chat!