The country is facing one of the worst fuel crises in decades. Spiralling energy costs are pushing people into serious financial difficulty. Research by National Energy Action (NEA) shows that four million people are living in fuel poverty – struggling to afford to keep their homes warm and safe. When the price cap is lifted on April 1, NEA estimate that a further 1.5 million people could be pushed into fuel poverty.
Fuel poverty affects people, young and old, all over the UK, sadly causing them to make difficult decisions between putting the heating on, using hot water, buying warm clothes, or having enough food to eat. It creates a vicious cycle. Living in a cold home contributes to a range of health issues like respiratory illnesses, suppressed immune systems, and poor circulation. These can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other major problems. Ultimately, fuel poverty is a key contributor to the UK’s 35,000 excess winter deaths.
There is no doubt that we will face a huge challenge over this winter and in the years to come. However, we aren’t powerless to make a difference. Community foundations across England run winter appeals. Over the years, these appeals have raised millions of pounds and helped thousands of people.
“To truly solve the problems caused by fuel poverty, systemic change at a national level is needed. Until that happens, people will need help from other sources. As a place-based funder, we know that local people will always step in and look out for one another.”
Rosemary Macdonald, CEO, UK Community Foundations
Thanks to the contributions of donors, large and small, local philanthropy is supporting people experiencing fuel poverty as you read this article. This support manifests in a range of different ways. Grants to individuals are a fundamental part of this. These examples, which were awarded from the Heart of Bucks Community Foundation’s Winter Warmth campaign, emphasise how these grants help people that are struggling:
A grant of £404 which will support a seven person, four-generational household including a 5-month-old baby, a pregnant woman and four people with respiratory illnesses. The award will help to heat the shared home, buy hot water bottles and get two winter weight duvets and a coat for the baby and pregnant woman.
An award of £136 to enable a young single mother with a 3-month-old baby to buy a snowsuit for her son, a coat for herself plus a heater, winter duvet, and hot water bottle.
A grant of £175 for a 78-year-old man living in a caravan to provide an electric blanket, an oil filled radiator, thermal socks, and a warm wheat bag.
“Every winter I struggle to pay the increased heating bills. I dread winter. I have poor circulation, brought on by Raynaud’s Disease, and it’s just so difficult to get warm. My fingers and toes are never warm, even in the summer. In the winter they go nearly black with the cold…The money I got from the Surviving Winter grant stopped all my worry last year... It meant I didn’t have to go without food and I could afford to pay my heating bill.”
81-year-old Joyce, a recipient of a grant from the Somerset Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter appeal
The problems that fuel poverty create are complex and far-reaching. Being able to see the bigger picture is key. As well as supporting individuals with grants, money raised by community foundation appeals goes towards funding local charities and community organisations that are working to help people through the winter months. Many have reported that there has been a sharp increase in people seeking advice and support.
“We’ve experienced a huge surge in enquires relating to rising energy costs, heating issues and financial assistance available. Within the first couple of months of the Surviving Winter appeal running, we’ve received almost four times the number of applications in comparison to last year.”
Shareen Elnagy, Project Officer at Wiltshire Safe and Warm, a partner of the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter appeal
Funding also goes towards supporting other vital services, such as: night shelters, welfare checks, health and well-being activities, deliveries of food parcels and warm meals, and much more.
“You’re the only person I’ve seen face to face for help in weeks. I really struggle with filling in forms and trying to get hold of people by phone, I don’t know what I’d do without your help.”
A guest of the Winter Night Shelter MK, a recipient of funding from the Milton Keynes Community Foundation
If you would like to find out more about the winter appeals that community foundations are running, you will find a full list of appeals here. If you are looking for support, please click here to find your local community foundation. If you are struggling with fuel costs and are looking for advice, you can find out more from the Citizens Advice website.
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