Cost of Living Crisis: Government announces country-wide energy bill discounts, but Southwark residents may need more

Herbie Russell (01 June, 2022)

The payments will automatically be discounted from energy bills, or added to people's benefits, so there is no need to apply.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a package of energy bill discounts, welcome news for Southwark households, fifteen per cent of which live in fuel poverty, according to one study.

On Thursday, May 26, Rishi Sunak announced that every UK household will get a £400 energy discount this autumn, with the poorest getting an additional £650.

There is no need to apply for either of the grants. From October, £400 will be automatically discounted from everyone’s energy bill.

The £650 payment, available to eight million households on Universal Credit, tax credits, pension credit and other means-tested benefits, will be paid automatically into people’s bank accounts.

Ross Diamond, CEO at Age UK Lewisham and Southwark, said: “The announcement is good news in the short-term but it probably doesn’t go far enough. I worry it will be back here next year – it really depends on the trajectory of the economy.

“Some of the older generation we support have been making the choice between eating and heating already and with utility bills and inflation going up, it’s going to be worse.

“People are actually having to wear warm clothes to stay warm inside which you wouldn’t hope to see in 21st century London.”

15% of Southwark is blighted by fuel poverty

A £150 payment will also be made to people receiving benefits such as disability living allowance and personal independence payments, possibly on top of the £650 payment.

Households that already receive the Winter Fuel Payment, available to most homes with at least one person of pension age, will get an additional £300 across November and December.

A Labour Party study found that fifteen per cent of Southwark homes lived in fuel poverty, defined as when ten per cent of a household’s income goes on energy bills.

Cost of Living Crisis: Walworth mum-of-four sold most treasured belongings to put food on the table

The News spoke to Denise Saunders, a 49-year-old disabled mum-of-three from Dulwich. She said: “I’m putting £20 a week on my electric whereas it was only £10 to £15 every two weeks before.”

Rarely able to leave her flat because it isn’t disabled-adapted, it’s not just the winter she worries about. “I worry about the summer as well. These houses are concrete based and it’s really hot so you have to put fans on which is so expensive.”

Fatima Briscoe, a Walworth mum-of-four is relying on food vouchers to feed her family because her Addison’s disease leaves her unable to work.

Over winter, her flat got so cold that her twelve-year-old son’s asthma flared up, hospitalising him.

“My flat takes a long time to warm up and, when my son is cold, I can only have it on for five minutes because I can’t afford to have it on for a long period of time”, she said.

Responding to the latest announcements, she said: “I can’t work so any little help you can get is a relief.”

Chancellor Sunak will fund the grants through a windfall tax on energy companies, whose profits have soared in recent months, even though Tory ministers had previously rejected the idea.

Cost of Living Crisis: More than 9,000 food parcels given to Southwark families in need

Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark said: “This is a delayed admission the government have failed to understand the depth of the situation facing many working families.”

Households worried about energy bills can use these services:

Ageing Well Southwark – Helps seniors and carers to discover the full range of support available – https://ageingwellsouthwark.org/

Southwark Emergency Support Scheme – Emergency support for families facing crisis – https://www.southwark.gov.uk/benefits-and-support/emergency-support

Southwark Hardship Fund – Scheme designed to help people in debt with household bills – https://www.southwark.gov.uk/benefits-and-support/hardship-fund

Southwark Pensioners Centre – Centre offering a wide range of services and advice for older people – http://www.southwarkpensioners.org.uk/

Warm and Well in Winterhttps://www.communitysouthwark.org/warm-and-well-in-winter-small-grants-programme – Service offering grants of up to £500 to local organisations and groups

Southwark Foodbankhttps://www.pecan.org.uk/southwark-foodbank/ – Range of food banks plotted across Southwark 

Lions food bankhttps://www.millwallcommunity.org.uk/news/370 – Food bank organised by Millwall supporters, The Lions Centre, Bolina Road, London SE16 3LD

Love North Southwark – Community-based food parcel distributors, Cherry Garden Hall, 210 Jamaica Rd, E16 4RT – https://lovenorthsouthwark.org/

City Hope – A community organisation offering food banks, debt advice and youth activities – http://www.cityhope.co.uk/

Citizens Advice – A charity offering free confidential advice to millions of clients – https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

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