There were approximately 2.4 million households considered to be in fuel poverty in 2018, the latest figures according to the 2020 Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics in England.
No one should have to live in fuel crisis. The impact of COVID-19 on Big Issue vendors has highlighted an issue faced by many households across the UK. Big Issue vendors have been unable to earn a living for several months of the past year. Restrictions have also meant more time than ever is being spent at home. Therefore they are using more energy on heating and lighting, placing extra pressure on already stretched finances.
During the first National Lockdown to the last, at least one vendor has contacted us every week to discuss support for paying their utility bills. COVID-19 has highlighted the reality for many of running out of money for gas and electricity. Our partnership with the Fuel Bank Foundation, launched during the pandemic has meant that after referral confirmation a vendor will receive a £49 voucher that can be redeemed to top up their electric/gas key card, for some this has made the difference between eating and whether to have the lights on or not.
Big Issue Foundation Frontline Staff, work hard to ensure our Big Issue vendors are supported, here are other ways we have been able to help:
- Claudia paid £600 for her gas bill but she has since received another letter requesting a further £160 that she can’t afford to pay it. Vendor Outreach worker Gabi made a referral to LEAP Local Energy Advice Partnership to help clear the arrears. Going forward Claudia will be supported to set up a manageable payment plan for all her utility bills.
- Kev found himself in arrears with an energy provider and was being pursued for the amount by a debt collector agency. Our Vendor Outreach worker Dave supported Kev to contact the provider and a manageable payment plan has now been agreed to clear the debt.
- During February’s national lockdown, Sean contacted the team to say he was struggling to pay bills and living costs with no source of income from magazine sales. Vendor Outreach worker Katie made Sean aware of the Citizen’s Advice Winter Support Grant Scheme and applied for £175 on his behalf so that he was able to keep on top of his bills and avoid slipping into arrears.
Running out of money for gas and electricity for some, is something that has happened in the past, and for many years, and was a common event when growing up. But for an alarming number, COVID-19 has brought this about for the very first time, with many finding themselves without the support networks or tried and tested ways to get through a gap in household finances where you are forced to literally live without energy. The impacts of waking up one day cold, unable to cook a hot meal nor keep food chilled, not able to have a warm shower or wash clothes, no access to wi-fi or TV for school learning, and unable to connect with family or society is significant and should not be understated.
Online boiler installation company WarmZilla makes a generous donation of £250 to The Big Issue Foundation, to help in the fight against poverty and homelessness for Big Issue vendors.
Matthew Powell, Managing Director of Warmzilla, said: