Unfolding cost-of-living crisis ‘like watching slow-motion trainwreck’

The fuel poverty charity National Energy Action estimates 8.7 million UK households will be in fuel poverty this winter.

29 July 2022

Anticipating how the cost-of-living crisis will hit the UK in the coming months is “like watching a slow-motion trainwreck”, a disabled man has said.

Jason Alcock, who has autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder, said the £400 from the Government to help households battle soaring energy costs will help but that people will need “a lot more” support.

The 51-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent previously told the PA news agency how he has had to sell the possessions of his dead wife Paola to stay afloat over recent years.

He now foresees a winter where he will have to turn off the radiators in the house and heat just his living room.

He told PA: “(The government) are not looking at the entire system.

“The money is brilliant. It’ll help, it’s better than not having it.

“But when you look at the cost-of-living crisis, everything is going up… It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. We need to be proactive.”

Jason Alcock at his home (Jason Alcock/PA)
Jason Alcock at his home (Jason Alcock/PA)

He added: “This isn’t something that’s going to be fixed in six months or a year, this is going to be a long term thing. We need subsidies for everyone.

“They need to look at it from an idea that the entire country is in trouble. It’s like a disaster.

“To me, it’s like watching a slow-motion trainwreck, you know it’s coming so you’ve got to do something about it.”

Max Morgan, a freelance writer in Glasgow, said the sum will “barely make a dent for most”.

The 43-year-old said they are not in any “immediate danger”, but are worried that further energy bill and interest rate rises “could start to make things very tight”.

“That first rise pushed many over the brink into absolute poverty, and any subsequent rises will be utterly calamitous,” they added.

The Government’s support package, first announced in May, will see £400 deducted from energy bills over six months, with additional targeted support for the most vulnerable and disabled households.

Morgan Wild, head of policy at Citizens Advice, said: “The support the government has put in place is very welcome, but we’re worried it’s not going to be enough to keep people afloat.”

The debt charity StepChange said further help with the cost of energy is needed if people who are not financially resilient are to avoid going cold and hungry or sinking further into problem debt this winter.

For the first time, the cost of living was the most commonly cited reason for debt among the charity’s clients in June, with 18% saying this was an underlying cause.

A spokeswoman said: “Although the £400 is obviously hugely welcome, the mechanisms for delivering it to households aren’t entirely straightforward, especially for those on prepayment meters (which are more common among financially stretched households).

“On top of this, the anticipated rise in the price cap is now expected to be far higher than envisaged when the support package was put in place.”

The fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) estimates 8.7 million UK households will be in fuel poverty this winter.

People’s “health, wellbeing and lives” will be at risk from cold, unsafe homes without more help, which is vital “to prevent the bleakest of winters for millions”, it added.

Peter Smith, NEA head of policy and advocacy, said forecasts for how much energy bills could rise have increased since the £400 grant was announced.

He said: “So, while the rebate and the wider support are still welcome, it is now being swallowed up these soaring energy costs and the wider increased cost-of-living crisis.

“This will be the new Prime Minister’s most urgent priority when taking office.”

The charity Age UK said the support will “provide a bit of relief” for older households on modest incomes but there is “no doubt” the Government will need to provide more financial help.

It said traditional prepayment meter users will have to rely on vouchers delivered by text, email and post which will “present significant barriers”.

The charity is encouraging these users to check their post, and for energy companies to check that customers have received and used their vouchers.

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