'Perfect storm' warning for Halifax's most vulnerable families as energy price rises and Universal Credit cut start to bite
Concern is growing about the bleak winter Halifax families face as the “perfect storm” or soaring energy costs and a cut to Universal Credit start to bite.
Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Calderdale Caroline Jones says it is shocking in today’s society that people are being forced to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table.
She and her team are offering as much as help as they can, with free, impartial and non-judgemental advice on everything from energy bills to debt management.
But she warned people were already struggling before the recent huge leap in gas and electricity prices, not to mention another expected jump being predicted next Spring.
“Combine that with the £20 Universal Credit uplift going and it’s a perfect storm,” she said. “We’re seeing people having to choose between food and heating. That is unacceptable - it is almost Dickensian.”
The Courier launched a Keep Us Warm This Winter campaign last month, pledging to keep readers informed about the help on offer.
With its ‘Keep Calderdale Cosy’ campaign, Citizens Advice Calderdale is helping people to understand their bills and cut down their energy usage.
Caroline said keeping homes heated is important to keep people well, especially for those with conditions such as arthritis and COPD.
Those on prepayment meters - often the poorest in the area - typically pay more per unit for their energy than those with dual fuel accounts, so will be harder hit by the price rises.
Manufacturers have warned they will have to pass on their rising energy costs, so household goods may cost more.
Councillors at Calderdale Council’s full council meeting heard this winter’s financial challenges could add up to a “cost of living crisis”.
Cabinet member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) said there were a number of ways the council could help.
“It’s going to be a tough winter for many of our residents,” she said. “I am in receipt of inquiries from a number of residents worried about how they are going to cope. We will do our level best to respond about what support they are entitled to.”
To contact Citizens Advice Calderdale, call 0808 2787879 or visit https://calderdalecab.org.uk/Help is on offer
One mother of a toddler and baby turned to Citizens Advice Calderdale because she was finding it hard to manage the household’s finances on her income.
Her poor mental health affected her ability to deal with stressful and complex issues, forcing her to manage her energy bills using a prepayment meter. Her challenges were exacerbated by a lack of access to a computer and limited digital skills.
With help from the team, she received a Warm Home Discount of £140 and a place on the Northern Power Grid Priority Services Register, as well as money and energy-saving tips.