Thousands of Bassetlaw families are being faced with difficult choices over whether to 'eat or heat' as increasing fuel poverty bites

As energy prices rocket and winter temperatures plummet, more and more households are being forced to make the desperate decision between keeping their homes warm or putting food on the table.

By sally outram
Friday, 4th February 2022, 7:00 am

With the costs of gas and electricity costs expected to rise by 50 per cent, from an average £1,200 per year to £1,800, many face increasing hardship.

Your Worksop Guardian is proud to support JPI Media’s new Heat & Eat – Fighting the Cost of Living Crisis community campaign. The crusade highlights current heating or eating dilemmas, why such cash-strapped, cost of living choices arose and what solutions can now best address issues involved.

Bassetlaw District Council leader, Simon Greaves is backing the campaign.

Your Worksop Guardian is proud to support JPI Media’s new Heat & Eat - fight the cost of living crisis community campaign.

He said: “I fully support the Heat & Eat Campaign and have already written to the Chancellor urging him to take action on spiralling household energy costs.

"During 2021, residents were hit by a huge rise in energy prices which have been compounded by VAT levied by Government.

"This April will see a further revision of the Energy Price Cap, and reports suggest energy bills could rocket to up to £2,000 per year.

Scrapping VAT on household energy bills would be a useful first step but the Government must do more to ensure people aren’t having to make the choice between heating or eating.”

Bassetlaw Food Bank received £1000 worth of donations

Lynn Tupling, Chief Executive of Bassetlaw Action Centre said many families are having to choose between eating and staying warm, with little relief on the horizon.

She said: “Many low income households are currently facing soaring energy bills with little or no possibility of negotiating the price discounts we used to enjoy from shopping around energy suppliers.

"The annual cost of living being 5.4 per cent is the highest it has been for 30 years and is forcing low income families and many older people to make a choice between eating well or staying warm.

“This should not have to be a choice in the UK in 2022.

"There is little relief on the horizon for working people with National Insurance set to rise on April 1.

"We are a partner in the Big Energy Saving Network and hope to be able to secure fuel vouchers to enable prepayment meter consumers to top up their meters in the next couple of weeks which would be welcome news, but is really only a drop in the ocean for the heating versus eating crisis being faced by many by many today.”

With many people plunging further into poverty and struggling to pay day to day bills, food banks are also seeing a startling rise in the amount of people turning to them for help.

Manager of Bassetlaw Food Bank, Robert Garland, said: “January is a busy month for us anyway, and is as busy as it was last January, and we haven’t seen a decrease.

"If you are struggling and want further information about the food bank, you can do via our website.”

Councillor Glynn Gilfoyle, for Worksop East, raised concerns at a recent Nottinghamshire County Council communities committee about funding that has been supporting families during the pandemic through food, energy and water bills and other essential costs.

The county council was given £5.6m in the autumn to support those in “immediate need” but must be spent by March.

A total of £2.3m of the funding was used to provide food vouchers to children entitled to free school meals and the remaining £3.3m is now being spent.

As of January 24, 6,233 households had received a total of £477,545 split between food and energy costs, with Bassetlaw receiving 7.7 per cent of the funding.

Coun Gilfoyle said: “My concern is once this money is finished, what is going to be there to support the families that are still suffering from poverty?

“It is an ongoing problem, it is not going to end on March 31, it is still going to be there.

“Is there more money that is going to be made available for the longer term for those individuals? We need to be helping.

“I really support it but I am concerned for the future. Once Covid has gone, poverty still exists.”

The authority has also decided to open the household support fund for residents to apply directly for financial assistance without the need to be referred through a professional.

Chairman of the committee, coun John Cottee said: “I sincerely hope speeding up the process of how we provide support to people most in need by enabling them to make an application directly to the household support fund, will help to alleviate some of the financial worries they are currently facing.”

Pensioners, or people on a low income, may also qualify to get £140 off their electricity bills under the Warm Home Discount Scheme.

There are other projects in Bassetlaw offering help.

Organisations that offer support include Bassetlaw Action Centre - www.bassetlawactioncentre.org.uk/energy/

Warm Homes Hub - warmhomeshub.com; Nottingham Energy Partnership - eligible households can receive free solar panels – www.GHGLADsNottsDerbys.com and grants are offered to make homes more energy efficient – nottenergy.com; the Big Community Switch – bigcommunityswitch.co.uk/bassetlaw; Citizens Advice Energy Scheme - 01909 498892 / www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply and Government winter fuel payments – www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment.