Organizations in Cornwall are expressing concern at the number of people who are being forced to choose between ‘heat or eat’ as the cost of living rises.
Two-thirds of British adults have seen their cost of living soar in the past month as energy bills soar and rising wholesale prices trickle down to supermarket shelves.
This has caused concern among many charities and organizations across Cornwall, fearing that families, individuals and communities will not be able to cushion these increases.
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Robin Mackland, who organizes a food distribution project called Falmouth Community Fridge, said: “It’s a real concern. People already have to make the choice between eating or warming up and that’s without these astronomical increases.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that 66% of adults surveyed have seen their cost of living rise. Of those who have seen their cost of living increase, 87% of people said they had raised food store prices, while 79% mentioned increased energy bills.
A spokesman for the Citizens Advice Bureau Cornwall warned that this was just the “tip of the iceberg”, calling on the government to act on the matter.
He said: “We see families being squeezed on all sides – high and rising inflation, low benefit levels and skyrocketing energy and fuel bills. With a further estimated £700 rise in utility bills energy in April, what we are currently experiencing could be the tip of the iceberg.
“In Cornwall, we are most concerned about how the lowest income people in one of the lowest earning areas of the country will fare. Our advisers are already seeing people facing desperate choices between heating and eat.
“Cases we’ve seen recently include people who have to live and sleep in one room in their home because they can’t afford heat, parents who skip meals so they can put dinner on the table for their children and those at work who have to resort to food banks because they simply cannot cover their essential expenses.
“We are asking for a one-time payment through the benefit system to help those who need it most and to prevent us from being in this situation next winter, the government must also extend the Warm Home Discount.”
Professor Michelle Brown, who runs the Churches Together Penzance food bank, covering from Lands End to Praa Sands, described the increased need for the food bank as an ‘ever-growing tsunami’.
She said: “We just want to keep our heads above water, but we are aware of what is going to hit us! There is so much work to do. »
“Last year there has been an incredible increase in need and it is due to a whole list of reasons: rising unemployment, Covid, rent prices coupled with evictions as homes are removed from the orbit to be used for vacation rentals.
“People have to make choices between food and energy and so many people don’t have adequate cooking facilities or enough fuel to cook.
Additionally, Michelle said she was concerned about the ripple effect of the rising cost of living on people’s ability to donate and support charitable causes.
“We’ve seen families come in who have never needed support before, but they just can’t balance all of these pressures.
“People are always so generous, but how much are they going to be able to give when they’re going through tough times and at risk of falling apart?
“Budget cuts and government policies show a lack of compassion and affect the poorest sections of society. In a rich and developed country, there shouldn’t be so many people who depend on public philanthropy.
Lizzie Sullivan, who runs the organization Whole Again Communities, echoed that point. The £30-50 donation Whole Again Communities has provided to members to help cover their energy bills will not be enough this year, she said.
“My daughter is a care aide who works full-time for minimum wage but she can’t afford to pay rent and that raises the price. It shouldn’t be like this.
“How the hell are people supposed to manage? How are they supposed to come up with the money if they just can’t afford it? Sell drugs?
“For people who are already on the bread line, it’s a very tricky situation,” she added.
Simon Fann, who runs the Truro Food Bank, said: “Anyone can fall into a food crisis.
“The Covid situation may have changed, but the demand has not. From the beginning of October to the end of December, we fed 1100 people.
“In our discussions with customers, the most common concern they now have is ‘heat or eat’. The Universal Credit cut came last October and remains an issue, but the debate over heat or consumption affects people who don’t claim UC. Low income is the primary referral reason for two-thirds of vouchers.
“As well as providing food to people who are referred to us, we also provide information on organizations that may be able to help with energy bills, but we now understand that these organizations are overwhelmed with calls. .”
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