As fuel poverty bites we ask who cares for the carers?

Many carers are on a very tight budget

Many carers are on a very tight budget - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This week in our “There For You This Winter Campaign” we hear from individuals struggling to fuel their homes this winter. 

An unpaid carer in Honiton talks about the struggle with what's being called the perfect storm of the government £20 top up for Universal Credit, and a rise in energy and gas prices. 

They wished to be anonymous but they tell the story of life as a carer and how hard it is to keep everything afloat.  

It's been announced the South West has been given £37 million by the government to help households struggling this winter as part of the household support fund to support families over the coldest winter months.  

The BBC reported last week (7th October) that up to 1.5 million people could struggle to heat their homes next year as well with the energy prices set to rise again next April. The problem may only get worse for not only our elderly in East Devon but working families as well in our area.  

A carer tells us: “Fuel poverty is defined thus, in order to heat a home to an adequate standard of warmth a household needs to spend more than 10% of its income on total fuel use made up of three components; income, energy consumption or energy efficiency and total fuel costs of the dwelling. 

"Thereby fuel poverty can only be alleviated by improving any or all of the above. While some carers may be able to improve various degrees of energy efficiency with or without the help of grants, that from time to time, are available. That is, if you become aware of them and are straightforward to apply for, often I find all the red tape puts me off applying for things, and drives me to distraction. 

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"Carers who are caring for a loved one and in employment cannot necessarily increase their income through work for many, many reasons. The third option energy costs are now a fast-disappearing option and quite honestly a laughable idea for the majority of carers I know.

"I am, as an ‘unpaid’ carer, sprinting to stand still; I do not have the luxury of time or the energy to sift through the dwindling offers. I have been running on exhaustion far too long. Beyond these normal issues to deal with I believe there is one more ‘hidden’ but crucial point almost always overlooked when discussing any aspect of fuel costs.  

"What terrifies me most is the impact fuel costs have on every service and product I need and use. This is never taken into account when assessing fuel poverty. The majority of carers whether young carers or adult carers are on a fixed budget and a very tight budget at that. When consumer fuel costs increase, they usually increase for industrial users as well. It is too easy to forget or overlook the extra costs we have to pay at the supermarket, garden centre or just to get the boiler serviced or any form of travel outside the home.  

"I believe the indirect costs are just as important when assessing fuel poverty as the direct costs. Benefits such as pensions may go up a little but fall into insignificance when fuel costs increase the rippling effect soon cancels out any increase in income.

The help on offer, the winter fuel payment - Warm Homes Discount and cold weather payments - are there only to allow us to barely stand still. All bills have to be paid; I like many carers only have one choice to cut down even if that means having a cold home for several hours a day. It is a vicious circle. No one wants to take responsibility, let alone take action on fuel poverty if indeed they have the answers.” 

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