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Britain’s Soaring Energy Costs Strain Crisis Responders

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A day after Arctic gusts hit Britain, temperatures plummeted to below freezing and the whole country was covered in frost, a 72-year-old man finally got through to the advice phone line of Gloucestershire’s charity service, Warm and Well. I was. west of England.

An anonymous man said he had been calling and leaving voicemail messages for days at a nonprofit that provides advice and emergency funds to people struggling to pay their electricity bills.

Energy advisor Teresa Hewitt, who responded to his call, could only sympathize. “I’m completely overwhelmed at the moment,” she told him, as she answered the phone that day in early December. was one of the members of

Across the UK this winter, higher energy prices have led to more people living in cold or damp homes in debt, pushing the country’s inflation rate above 10%. The sharp rise in so-called “fuel poverty”, where 10% of household income is spent on utilities, is prompting the need for free advice, emergency funds, or We are expanding the resources of charities that provide resources. With limited staff and inflation-depleted resources, these groups are seeking more creative ways to reach vulnerable households.

These efforts include doctors in Gloucestershire prescribing heat to patients who are at risk of being hospitalized for colds. I’m here.

“The number of people experiencing hardships today is unimaginable compared to just a year ago,” said Peter Samby, community director for the nonprofit National Energy Action.

The group 6.7 million households are running out of fuelA survey released this month by the National Bureau of Statistics found that nearly a quarter of adults say they’ve struggled to keep their living rooms warm these days, and a third said turning down the heat would improve their health and well-being. said to be harming

Samby said his nonprofit relies on “cobblestone solutions to help people survive the winter,” including packs of blankets, packets of hot chocolate powder and windbreak items. “It’s clearly a crisis response,” he said.

In the past six months, calls to National Energy Action’s advice line have tripled from the previous six months. Due to an “overwhelming” number of calls and a backlog of referrals, the line is currently closed until the new year. Since the beginning of September, Severn Wye, the nonprofit that runs Warm and Well and other services in the area, has helped more than 2,600 families, 1,000 more than at the same time last year. The phone keeps ringing. There have been nearly 9,000 calls since April.

The UK government plans to spend £25 billion ($30 billion) on energy bills this winter, but the typical household still spends an average of £2,500 (about $3,000) a year on gas. And you will face the electricity bill. Previous. in April, The annual cap will be raised to £3,000.

At Warm & Well’s Gloucester office, Hewitt realized there was little the 72-year-old man could do over the phone. He wanted to help get the funds to better insulate his home. Poor insulation in buildings is a chronic problem in England, Said to have the airiest house in Europe, insulation progress stalled more than a decade ago. The government recently set aside another £1 billion for insulation, but the caller was not eligible for this and previous grants.

But almost by accident, the man revealed something troubling. He and his wife sat in the living room at 17 degrees Celsius or 63 degrees Fahrenheit.

That’s a few degrees below the recommended temperature for people of your age who spend a lot of time at home. To keep up with their ever-increasing utility bills, they turned down or turned off the heat, wore layers at night, and blanketed their beds. Mr. Hewitt urged him to turn the thermostat up to 20 degrees and instructed him to seek additional help if he was late with his payment.

Across Europe, governments are spending big to protect their citizens from rising energy costs, and have spent months trying to encourage homes to take energy-saving measures such as lowering thermostats and taking shorter showers. The UK, which has also invested heavily, has rolled out a nationwide energy-saving advice campaign, including encouraging people to unplug appliances when not in use and to reduce boiler settings. was only last Saturday.

by the time this campaign When it started, fuel-starved charities were already inundated with cries for help.

Under this immense pressure, Gloucestershire has a fresh approach. This winter, some doctors will be able to prescribe heat to particularly vulnerable patients. A prescription means they will significantly help pay their energy bills.

The program aims to help people who face severe problems paying for the heating of their homes and to relieve the strain on the National Health Service, which is on the brink of collapse due to lack of beds and understaffing. is. It is intended for people who are at risk of contracting chest infections, have severe respiratory illnesses and are financially challenged. After running a small pilot program last winter, he aims to reach 150 households this winter, with funding he will be distributed by Severn Wye and provided by the local council.

Dr. Hein Le Roux, one of the doctors participating in the program, said: Being able to think holistically about health care and prevent people from getting sick is “actually a luxury moment,” he said.

The energy crisis means that not only more people need help, but the available funds are in short supply. Severn Wye was able to donate hundreds of pounds each to indebted and vulnerable households, including those with children, elderly residents and those with disabilities, to help pay their utility bills. Since April, the nonprofit has given out more than £360,000 of her to her 1,459 households in her three counties. In Gloucestershire the first pots were quickly depleted this fall.

In early December, Suhaila Abdalla eagerly awaited the availability of the next funding round in Gloucestershire. She is one of her nine energy advocates in Severn Wye, visiting people’s homes. Abdallah, who speaks Arabic, Persian and Kurdish, mostly visits refugees and asylum seekers.

On a freezing morning, Abdalla stepped into the warm home of Intiza Abdulman, 27. Abdallah came to the UK from Sudan two years ago. The balloons and bunting were still awake from her son’s first birthday a few days earlier. I was waiting.

Abdrhman said in an interview that he “didn’t think anything” about energy efficiency, translated by Abdalla. “Everything was a surprise to me.”

“It was winter when I came here. It’s very cold and I come from a very hot country,” she added. Every day, she turned the radiator on full, not knowing how much it would cost.

These days, Abdrhman and her husband spend about £150 a month on gas for heating and hot water.

In a two-hour visit, Abdallah created a whirlwind of efficiency. She called Abdulman’s power company on her behalf. She tried to contact her gas supplier. During her wait, I took Ms. Abdulman around the apartment and offered advice on her energy. Turn down radiators, wash laundry at a low temperature, unplug appliances when not in use, and switch to energy-saving light bulbs.

Abdallah was unable to contact his gas supplier. But before she leaves, she sticks a silver reflective plastic sheet behind a lowered radiator to reflect heat back into the room, and a “warm pack” containing blankets, thick socks and other items. handed over the

As I was walking through Gloucester city center on my way to my second home visit, Abdallah got a call. It was at another community center that she was urgently requested to advise the group. They desperately needed help, the caller said. But Abdallah’s schedule was already packed. they will have to wait.

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