COLUMN: Tough choice for some between eating and heating
As winter takes hold and temperatures drop, people across Nottinghamshire will be reaching for their winter woollies and turning up the central heating.
Unfortunately, for many households, the rising cost of gas and electricity is a price they cannot easily afford and they are faced with a stark choice between heating and eating.
An estimated 32,000 households in Nottinghamshire are considered to be living in ‘fuel poverty’, which, in simple terms, means the cost of heating their property outstrips their ability to pay.
Across the county, fuel poverty is highest in Bassetlaw (10.4 per cent of homes), Newark and Sherwood (10.1 per cent of homes), Ashfield (9.3 per cent of homes) and Mansfield (9.3 per cent of homes) but there are people in every community who are struggling.
The health impact of living in a cold home, especially on older people, those with existing medical conditions and children are extremely worrying. In 2014/15, there were 810 more deaths in our county during the winter months (December to March) compared to non-winter months.
So I’m calling on everyone in Nottinghamshire to hold out a helping hand to family, friends, neighbours and vulnerable people this winter. We can all help spread the message about the support that’s available to make their home warmer and simple, practical steps we can all take to reduce bills.
As a starting point, visit the website www.everybodys–talking.org where you can get information on all kinds of support, including grants to pay for insulation or a new boiler, advice on how to make the most of insulation in your homes, cold weather payments and the winter fuel allowance.
No one wants to overpay for the energy they use. One way to make sure you don’t is to switch tariff or supplier regularly. If you’ve never switched you could save hundreds of pounds and there are also better options available for people on pre-payment meters now. Even if you have switched before, you should continue to check your tariffs at least once every two years to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
There are a number of switching sites out there and many also have a freephone number – www.goenergyshopping.co.uk lists the Ofgem approved switching sites and provides other practical help such as how to understand your bill, read your meter and compare prices.
Please help us spread the message of warmth this winter.