Community Larder worried gas price rise will cause ‘perfect storm’

There’s been no escaping the news this week about the shortage of HGV drivers, due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, which in turn has led to a shortage of fuel and widespread panic-buying.

Isabel Forrester. EMN-210929-144114001

Perhaps more worryingly, gas prices have risen and have put some energy suppliers out of business, leading to people across the country worried about how they will pay their fuel bills during the upcoming cold weather.

Here in Horncastle, the Horncastle Support Team, which incorporates Horncastle Community Larder, is expecting some local residents and families to struggle financially as we head into the winter.

A spokesman said: “We have already seen an increase in the number of food parcel referrals in September and, sadly, we expect this trend to continue as the year progresses.”

Isabel Forrester is Horncastle Community Larder’s co-ordinator and spokesman, and she said that the Universal Credit changes, which will see the end of the £20 a week boost next Wednesday (October 6) will cause further financial problems for people already struggling.

She said: “The Universal Credit uplift is going to hit a lot of people hard and will create a perfect storm, and the people who will pay for it in this situation are the ones who are less able to pay for it.

“£80 per month is most people’s winter fuel bill and it’s going to force more people into debt.”

With people struggling to pay fuel bills, some may be faced with the decision on whether to pay the bill or buy food, so Isabel is fully anticipating a surge in referrals to the food bank over the next few months.

“Summer is an easier time of year because people eat and cook less when it’s warm and have lower heating and fuel needs,” Isabel explained, “But in the autumn, we always have a surge and people referring for fuel grants and we’re anticipating it will be worse soon.

“It’s going to be a perfect storm with the supply shortage.”

“We’ve had warnings from other food banks that we need to be prepared, so we’re starting to stockpile items to make sure we’ve got enough supplies and we’re girding our loins, expecting things to kick off.

“Over the last two weeks or so we’ve had loads more people needing food parcels and our referrals have already doubled over the past month.”

A range of services is offered by the charity in addition to the town’s foodbank, including information for professionals on small grant funds for individuals struggling with heating costs and a signposting service for residents to further sources of help.

Their website launched last year and features a support directory, which provides contact details for a wide range of organisations which can help with everything from practical managing debt to those seeking support with mental health issues.

When the website launched last year during the pandemic, it received over 3,000 visits during its first six months alone

The support team’s spokesman said: “The website is designed to provide impartial information and to help people to find the support that they need. It is kindly hosted by Horncastle Town Council which saves us time and money which means that we can keep our funds to help local residents.”

The charity operates through referrals from a range of trusted partners including charities, professionals and local groups. Anyone who needs help can contact organisations such as Citizens Advice, Age UK Lindsey, social services or the local church groups who will assess individual circumstances.

The support team’s spokesman added: “We are incredibly grateful to everyone for the donations of food made through our partners at Co-op, Lincolnshire Co-op, Tesco and St Mary’s church. We also rely heavily on private donors and grant funding and more information can be found on our website if you would like to support our work”.

At present, the community larder is running short of both tinned meats and pasta.

Donations of food for the larder can be made at any of the community larder’s drop-off points, or at their base at Horncastle Community Centre.

To find out more about Horncastle Support Team and Community Larder, call Isabel on : 07395 873338 or email [email protected]

East Lindsay District Council has confirmed that there is funding via Lincs 4 Warmer Homes for residents to receive help with funding for new gas boilers for first time installations and insulation measures where the homes are poorly insulated.

As this week is Warm Homes Week, industry trade association National Energy Action (NEA), is calling for rural homeowners living in Lincolnshire to be offered a fairer, more affordable way to cut emissions from their home heating to stop more being pushed into fuel poverty.

According to NEA, Government statistics show that 3.18 million people (13.4 per cent) are still struggling to meet their energy costs, including around 70,700 in Lincolnshire.

The figures also highlight that rural households are more likely to be fuel poor than those with a gas connection, largely because rural properties tend to be older, larger and poorly insulated.

Support has been pledged to help some of those on the lowest incomes make the necessary changes but OFTEC, a trade association for liquid fuel heating, says many households deemed ‘able to pay’ will be adversely affected.

Malcolm Farrow of OFTEC, says: “We are concerned about how the households in Lincolnshire who are already only ‘just about managing’ will meet the high cost of installing a new low carbon heating system, plus the expensive home insulation improvements often needed.”