Choosing Heat or Food

June 13, 2022

Sue Fennessy

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Everybody is going to receive a 54% increase in their fuel bills due to the end of the energy cap. This means average bills will go up by £693 to £1971. For those with average salaries this is going to mean tightening their belt. Perhaps giving up a holiday or delaying a purchase but to those on benefits, zero hour jobs or a pension it is going to be catastrophic.

Already according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) in 2018/19, around 20% of the population is living in relative poverty and last year JRF stated “There was little change in overall poverty levels for the last 15 years”, despite successive politicians trumpeting it has been declining.

When you consider that pensions and benefits are rising by just 3.1% in this year and that inflation was forecast to reach 8.7% in the recent budget statement and there are nearly 1 million people on zero hours contracts, there are many people who just do not have the resources to pay for this huge energy bill rise. This stark choice between food or fuel is going to be even more of a reality.

Food banks are now becoming staple diets for millions of people. So much so that a leading supermarket has begun to see them as a competitor.

So, is there a solution? The chancellor Rishi Sunak has offered a £200 loan but this is only going to push people into more debt. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet but there are lots of ways we could mitigate this.

Benefits and pensions could be properly linked to the real costs that people have to pay. Green energy could be speeded up now its cost is less than conventional energy and will be considerably less as conventional costs soar. Those more economically challenged could also be charged the same as the rest of society and not penalised as they are when they prepay their electricity or have to get higher interest loans. More investment could be made on better housing and better insulation that was more energy efficient. In fact, much of this should have been done long ago and been part of a coherent plan.

My belief is that everybody who can in society should do what they can to treat this as the emergency it is and dedicate as much energy and resource to this as to the pandemic. In my mind, this is a poverty pandemic that we all need to roll up our sleeves and find practical solutions to. Government should make this a priority and invest in people and robust solutions and plan for this never to happen again.

We should do all we can to support the amazing charities we have in this country that run food banks and help people in debt. Business also has a role to play. It should be helping its communities. That’s why at WeAre8, we give 5% of our revenue to charities, 50% to people who want to be valued for watching ads on our platform, and 5% to creators who are showcasing their work globally on the 8Stage, our hate-free, ad-free social feed.   And this is just the start. We are looking for more ways to support and campaign to end poverty because it’s never been more important than now.

Let’s make sure nobody has to choose between food and fuel again. Together we can unite for good and be the change we want to see.

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