Fylde charities warn families could face tough choice between eating and heating due to energy price hikes and Universal Credit cuts

A Fylde charity leader fears increased domestic energy prices could lead to a stark choice between food and fuel.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 11:30 am

Another feels it could be ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’ this winter for families already struggling financially.

Their concerns come as we launch a campaign to ‘Keep Us Warm This Winter’ in the face of the price of wholesale gas surging by 250 per cent since the beginning of the year, according

to figures from Oil and Gas UK.

JPI Media campaign Keep Us Warm This Winter

The soaring prices threaten hefty domestic bills and while the Government has pledged to do all it can to protect the consumer, Pat Naylor, chief executive of charity Home-Start Blackpool

Fylde and Wyre, fears a hike in prices will bring extra difficulties.

Pat said: “Many families are struggling financially, especially those on Universal Credit, so coupled with the decrease of £20 per week, the potential increase in energy costs could be the

straw that breaks the camel’s back for those families.”

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consumers, particularly the vulnerable and those on low incomes.

Kim Cook, chairman of trustees at Fylde Foodbank, said she expects the number of referrals for its services to increase if the rise in winter fuel prices goes ahead.

“People may have to choose between turning off their heating or skipping meals,” she said. “Many households could be plunged into hardship.”

Latest figures available show that Fylde Foodbank is already dealing with increased demand.

In the 12 months to March this year, 2,369 adults and 1,257 children were fed, compared to 2,158 adults and 1,185 children 12 months earlier and 1,559 adults and 936 children in the

financial year before that.

A Citizens Advice Bureau spokesman said: “We have a British Gas Energy Trust project which helps people apply for grants to pay energy bills, and we have seen more demand through

that recently.

“I imagine if people need to switch energy providers it’s going to cause quite a lot of upset, there’ll be people who have real uncertainties about what’s going to happen.

“We’re in the process of issuing new guidance for people whose energy suppliers go out of business, but at the moment it all seems quite uncertain until there’s a decision from the

Government as to whether some of the suppliers will get grants, or some of the bigger ones will be able to take on new customers from the ones in trouble.

“We’re still waiting to see what’s going to happen but anyone with worries about it can contact their local citizens advice for help.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “Gas prices are rising and the situation will be difficult – but hopefully only in the short term.

“The Government is working to help energy companies as we deal with a huge rise in demand while the world emerges from a global pandemic.

“There have been issues with several pipelines being out of action as well as an increased demand due to issues with electricity supply.

“This is one of the reasons I want to see the Government commit to new nuclear – not just to protect our highly-skilled workforce at Springfields, but also to ensure we have better energy

security going forward.”

Kim Cook added: “If anyone living in St Annes, Lytham, Kirkham or rural Fylde finds themselves in a financial crisis help is available at Fylde Foodbank, for which a voucher is required and

can be obtained through one of our registered agencies. Details at our website fylde.foodbank.org.uk or email [email protected]

Pat Naylor of Home-Start said: “I would urge families to contact Citizens Advice for information on benefits that may help. There is also an informative website www.turn2us.org.uk/Benefit-

guides/Fuel-Poverty/What-is-fuel-poverty – and please donate to the foodbanks if you can.”