Support for Islington and Hackney families facing fuel poverty this winter
- Credit: John Richie Forsyth
With energy costs rising and thousands of families in Hackney and Islington living in fuel poverty, many will be seeking support.
Sue Bell, chair of trustees of Hackney Foodbank, called the expiry of the £20 Universal Credit uplift, the end of furlough, and the recent energy price cap increase on October 1 "a fatal combination".
"It comes at such a bad time," she said. "We are certainly preparing for a challenging winter at Hackney Foodbank."
The latest figures show that in 2019, 16.4 per cent of Hackney households were living in fuel poverty. The borough has seen 7,666 more families fuel poor since 2015.
In Islington, there were 14,703 or 14.8pc in 2019, with 5,410 more families living in fuel poverty since 2015.
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition, which is made up of many organisations such as Hackney Foodbank, created an index comparing local authorities in England. This scored local authorities out of 100, with the highest ranked having the worst levels of fuel poverty.
Hackney scored 81 on the index and Islington 75, both higher than the average of 67.
The levels of deprivation in both boroughs will leave some families deciding between eating and heating.
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Sue said: "A full time mum we saw recently gave birth to her third child and she was telling us that she has had to move to a bigger place and it costs more than they have.
"The money they do have is spent on rent and bills leaving them with little money for food."
Sue reports that data from the Trussell Trust, the charity which supports a network of foodbanks across the UK, shows worrying trends.
"There has definitely been an increase in pensioners coming into food banks in the past couple of years and also, in our last annual report for the year ending 2020 more than 25 per cent of beneficiaries were children of primary school age."
That is why the chair of trustees said there needs to be more long-term, sustainable solutions to help people out of poverty.
She adds that the response, particularly throughout the pandemic has been "a little bit crisis driven".
Sue advises that people struggling to pay their energy bills first get in touch with Citizens Advice Bureau, an organisation which gives fuel vouchers to people in need.
Other organisations that provide help and support include Shelter, Fuel Poverty Action, National Energy Action and the Centre For Sustainable Energy which has recently published energy saving tips and advice.
Sue also recommends support from charities like Age UK and Mind.
The Seasonal Health Intervention Network (SHINE), located within Islington Council and run by the Energy Advice Service, can also provide support as a fuel poverty referral network and free energy advice service for Londoners.
SHINE, which was set up by Islington Council in 2010 and later expanded to help households at risk of fuel poverty across the capital, offers a helpline and affordable warmth interventions to help households save on energy bills and stay warm.
Find out more about SHINE at shine-london.org.uk
If you can't hear or speak on the phone, type what you want to say to 18001 then 0800 144 8884
For support from Age UK Islington call 0207 281 6018 or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/islington
For advice and support from Age UK Hackney call 020 72497149, email firstname.lastname@example.org or drop in to 22 Dalston Lane from 9.30am-1pm every Monday and Wednesday.
Learn more about Mind in Islington at www.islingtonmind.org.uk
Or get in touch with Mind in the City and Hackney at www.mindchwf.org.uk
For advice on your rights when dealing with energy companies visit Fuel Poverty Action www.fuelpovertyaction.org.uk
Contact National Energy Action for warm and safe homes advice by calling 0800 304 7159 or visit www.nea.org.uk/member-of-the-public
For resources on how to keep your home warm and heated efficiently, visit Centre For Sustainable Energy at www.cse.org.uk/resources