"We're seeing unprecedented numbers of clients unable to manage" - Cost of living crisis affecting more and more people in Calderdale

The cost of living crisis is affecting more and more people in Calderdale, it has been warned.

By Tom Scargill
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 9:14 am
Updated Thursday, 10th February 2022, 9:26 am

But those in the borough struggling with rising bills have been assured that help is available.

Household bills are set to rise by almost £700 a year for millions, following an announcement that the price cap will be hiked by more than 50 per cent.

Regulator Ofgem said that the annual cap will now be set at £1,971, an increase of £693 on the previous maximum of £1,277.

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Steve Duncan

Ministers have intervened to try and soften the blow, offering households up to £350 off their bills this year, however people have been warned that high prices could be here to stay.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The price cap rise means we’ll all see our energy bills rocket in April.

"Worryingly, even before these price hikes kick in, we’re seeing record numbers of people needing crisis support like food vouchers."

"This national view is being replicated in our local area," said Liz Horne, Operations Manager at Citizens Advice Calderdale.

People in Calderdale are struggling with the cost of living.

"Our latest national research in November showed that one in five people have already cut back on their food shop (19%) or used less heating (20%), with one in ten (10%) anticipating accessing crisis support like food banks or fuel vouchers.

“We are seeing unprecedented numbers of clients unable to manage on their incomes. With the rising inflation and interest rates, and the impending rises in national insurance and the energy price cap, we’re seeing more and more working people struggling to manage their bills.

“We’re lucky here in Calderdale to have such a range of experienced third sector organisations who are working together to help our local community.

“With the huge rise in fuel prices there has been an increase in people coming to us with no money for heating and cooking. As part of the Fuel Poverty Group, which includes Calderdale Council and Newground Together, we’re here to support vulnerable people access the household fund. Our energy specialists provide clients with joined up support with their energy problems, including providing advice on fuel and food vouchers and other benefits.

Holly Lynch

“If you need help then ring on our free telephone line 0808 278 7879. We’re open 9.30am to 1pm Monday to Friday and Tuesday 4-5.30pm or email us using the contact us page on our website https://calderdalecab.org.uk/contact-us/.”

Chief Executive for Age UK in Calderdale, Lisa Butland, said: "Older people are particularly vulnerable when it comes to cold weather which is why we are so concerned about rising energy prices.

"We urge everyone to keep their homes warm and if you are struggling to pay your bills to contact us or your energy supplier who have an obligation to help you."

Halifax MP Holly Lynch said some of the cases people are sharing with her on the rising cost of living are "heart-breaking".

"The Government has known of the risk of rising energy prices for months, but the Prime Minister has been too paralysed by his own scandals to deal with it," she said.

"Working families in Halifax have already been feeling the crunch with a fall in real wages and tax rises, but I really worry that the eye-watering energy price cap increase introduced by the Chancellor will hit my constituents hard.

"The Labour party has proposed a series of alternatives starting with a 1-year windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers, and would remove VAT on energy bills to smooth the costs of supplier failure. This would mean that those most in need in Halifax would save around £600 off their bills in total. These are the types of serious alternatives we need to see."

Steve Duncan, CEO of the Community Foundation for Calderdale, said: "The Community Foundation for Calderdale, the organisation I am proud to be CEO of exists 'to improve the quality of life for the people of Calderdale'. The Foundation, the vision of the late Lord Shutt of Greetland is now in its 30th year. We are here for the people of Calderdale and can be counted on during good times and bad to provide grant aid to voluntary and community organisations supporting the most disadvantaged people in our communities. Since 1991 we have directed over £30m to where it is most needed in Calderdale and have responded to, and raised funds for, people affected by local significant flood events and those affected by the Covid-19 the pandemic.

"Our primary focus now will be to consider on the best and most impactful way to respond to the perfect storm of significant fuel increases, the rise in interest rates, and the increase in inflation and national insurance to support the many Calderdale families who are going to struggle financially as a result. I am confident that through typical Yorkshire grit, resilience and generosity we have in abundance in Calderdale we will get through these difficult times together."

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Jenny Lynn, said: “We’re facing a cost of living crisis in the country, and we know people are facing some really difficult situations. Reducing inequalities is one of the Council’s top priorities and along with our community partners we’re committed to supporting people impacted by poverty.

“The cost of living has been rising since early 2021 and as well as higher inflation, household budgets will be affected by changes in taxes and benefits in the coming months. This includes an increase in National Insurance Contributions from April 2022, and changes to income tax, as well as the withdrawal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift last year.

“The recent news about the increase in the energy price cap is of further concern. Low-income households spend a larger percentage than average on energy and food and will therefore be impacted more by increases in prices. Many residents that were just about managing to make ends meet will be pushed into poverty.

“We know that this will be a worrying time for many local families and we’re doing all we can to support those who are struggling. Since the end of last year, we’ve been using the Government’s Household Support Fund Grant to make payments directly to eligible families, couples and single people who are most likely to be impacted by the increase in living costs. In addition, we have worked with the Community Foundation for Calderdale to allocate funding to community organisations that work directly with people who are struggling financially. Over £1,000,000 has been distributed so far, with plans in place to allocate the remainder of the funding before the scheme ends.

“Individuals or families who are struggling, should visit https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/coronavirus-covid-19/help-people-and-communities/household-support-fund to find full details of what support is available as well as useful links to partner organisations.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise people are facing pressures with the cost of living, which is why we are taking decisive action through a £200 discount on bills this autumn and a £150 non-repayable reduction in Council Tax bills, on top of the existing £12 billion of support we already have in place.”