How the fuel crisis will affect Northamptonshire and what we can do to help
Checking on your neighbours and loved ones has been imperative in the last 18 months and it is about to be important again for another reason
Today we launch a campaign - 'Keep us Warm this Winter' - to make sure you have all the information you need about the fuel crisis and help you find ways to cope with the winter ahead.
Families and pensioners could face an unacceptable choice between food and fuel in the months ahead.
Find out what local charities can do to help if you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties.
As the fuel crisis takes hold of the nation, organisations in Northamptonshire are preparing to do all they can to help those most at risk.
Experts fear that older people, families on low income and others will have to choose between cooking and keeping warm this winter as energy bills soar.
Victoria Miles, CEO of the Northamptonshire Community Foundation, said: “Given what has happened over the last couple of weeks, I can just see it spiraling out of control.
“It really is a lonely and worrying time for some people.
“Some have decided if they are going to cook a meal or put the heating on.”
Age UK Northamptonshire CEO, Christopher Duff, added: “It’s all bad news for older people at the moment.
“The energy caps are the highest they have ever been and it will only go up.
“Older people do not usually use comparison sites or switch providers so they will be victims.”
Chris expects to see a 15 to 16 percent rise in bills - or around £140 a month - on average, which he says older people ‘will not be able to do anything about’.
For Victoria, it is not just older people on pensions, who historically struggle with fuel prices, that she is worried about.
Younger people, who work, or those who have lost their jobs and may have had their energy supplier changed due to companies going bust, will also be hit by the crisis.
The charity boss recalls speaking to someone recently who was paying £50 a month, but their new supplier has hiked their bill to £110.
Victoria added: “That’s a massive hike if salaries haven’t gone up.
“So it’s definitely affecting younger people too and families on low incomes, especially with reduced Universal Credit, too.”
Some readers have also told this newspaper how scared they are about not being able to afford to heat their home.
One said: “I will be afraid to put the heating on. Guess it will be hot water bottles and blankets, plus early nights.”
Another added: “I've struggled since the lockdown ended. My benefits have been cut by £260 a month.”
Although it will be down to the Government to reassess fuel price caps to fully put a stop to the issue, in the meantime, there are ways in which members of the public can help each other.
The community foundation started a Winter Wellbeing Appeal in 2010, raising awareness of fuel price issues. The appeal has raised £250,000 in total.
This year the charity is ready to ramp up the campaign and raise more funds to help more people in need.
The donated money is pooled and offered to groups who support those most affected in ways such as lunch clubs where a hot meal is offered, or food banks, but there are other things to do as well, rather than a financial donation.
“Keep an eye on your neighbours,” Victoria continued.
“Make sure people are not sitting in a room for hours without heating. Take a cooked meal for them. Continue to give to food banks. Talk about slow cooker meals, as this can really help rather than turning the gas on. Make sure people have access to lunch clubs and groups.
“Just be aware of people’s situations and if we all come together we can really help.”
Chris very much echoes Victoria’s points and is also encouraging everyone to check on their loved ones.
“It is more than ever important to keep an eye on neighbours, friends and relatives,” he continued.
“We need to take a real interest in this issue and help and support them.
“We should also see if there are any energy saving measures we can implement in our houses before the cold weather hits.
“Those sorts of things are more urgent this year and should be done sooner rather than later.”
Age UK Northamptonshire will soon be launching its winter campaign to offer support and guidance to older people on how to keep warm.