Nov 102017
 

Mon 13 November at 9 am is the deadline for responses to a proposed limited cap on energy prices.

You may know that the government has for over a year been promising relief for people who pay the default “standard variable tariff” (SVT) – and who are getting ripped off as a result. Meanwhile prices have soared, and so have suppliers’ profits. A small cap on tariffs has been brought in for people with Prepayment Meters. It’s inadequate, but better than nothing. For people with credit meters, Theresa May promised a cap, then went back on it, then promised it again: u-turn upon u-turn. And she is now reassuring the energy industry that it will take ages, if it comes in at all. But meanwhile, the energy regulator Ofgem, with government support, is proposing a limited “safeguarding” cap, which would apply only to people who receive the Warm Home Discount.

Here the story gets murky. Warm Home Discount – worth £140 a year off your electricity bill — is awarded automatically to pensioners on low incomes. People deemed “vulnerable” for other reasons – particularly disability or illness, or children aged 5 or under, can apply to their energy supplier and may get it, but it is “first come first served” with a limited pot, and all the suppliers have different requirements to say who qualifies, mostly based on what benefits you receive. Some smaller suppliers don’t offer Warm Home Discount at all.

This means that despite being eligible, disabled people and children will often be excluded – not only from the discount itself, but now from the cap, which Ofgem say could save the average user around £120 a year. That is a total of over £260 a year, and much more if you need the heat on a lot or use a lot of power.

Ofgem are consulting on this plan, and Fuel Poverty Action will be telling them that this is particularly shocking. Disabled people often need more heat, for medical reasons or if we’re home a lot, and can suffer much worse effects if we can’t afford to keep warm. And, having been hit hardest by multiple cuts, disabled people are in a worse position to deal with rising fuel prices. The same is true for the parents of babies and young children, with benefit cuts, universal credit and low wages causing a massive increase in child poverty.

There is even a risk that, if the cap is applied to some people, the people who don’t qualify for the cap may see our fuel prices rise by even more, as suppliers try to make up the difference through cross-subsidisation!

An Ofgem press release says they will “Ofgem will work on extending price protection to at least a further 2 million vulnerable households for winter next year once the timing of the Government’s price cap is confirmed”. However, there is nothing about this “work” in the actual consultation papers; instead they repeatedly say that to bring the cap in quickly, they will limit it to people who already get the Warm Home Discount.

Fuel Poverty Action think a cap should apply across the board – no means-testing, no cliff-edge where your bills go up if you get knocked off disability benefits, or get a rise in pay, or get married … The prices are too high for everyone now, thousands of people in all sorts of situations are dying from cold every year, and suppliers are making a killing.
But in the meantime, the Ofgem cap is scheduled to come in this coming February. At the very least, it should apply to everyone who would be eligible for Warm Home Discount, whether or not you actually get it. If you want to help make sure that the cap covers more of the people who need it most urgently, you can send a simple email to:

Jemma Baker at vulnerability@ofgem.gov.uk, by 9am on Monday 13 November

And send us a copy at fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com!

Tell them: warm homes are a right – not a “first-come-first-served” lottery!

Feel free to check out our response for inspiration.

Cold homes, fuel poverty, climate change, millions of homes in debt to their energy supplier, huge profits for the Big Six… the energy system isn’t working.
Another energy system is possible! Get behind the Fuel Poverty Action Energy Bill of Rights

 

Nov 282013
 

It’s been a busy few days for DPAC gathering evidence on the cumulative impact of cuts on disabled people, and on the crisis in independent living.  On the 25th we heard moving and powerful testimonies of how the Government are ruining lives through their austerity regime. Disabled people are faced with a range of cuts and so called ‘reforms’ which are contravening our basic human rights. We are faced with stark choices between eating or heating while having our dignity stripped by a range of psychological attacks at the same time as having support removed.

 Testimonies will be sent to the UN rapporteur on disability-thanks to everybody who came to London to tell their stories and to those that submitted their experiences through email. This event was originally arranged by Just Fair, however due to the rapporteur being unable to come to the UK due to illness DPAC and Inclusion London stepped in to run this at the last minute, so we could get these important stories out to the UN.

On the 26th the morning saw a hugely successful protest on fuel poverty organised by DPAC, Fuel Poverty Action, the Greater London Pensioners and UKUncut: ‘Bring down the Big Six – Fuel Poverty Kills!’ against the increase in fuel poverty deaths and increasing profits and prices of the big 6. Supporting groups included No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear. There were also protests in Oxford, Lewes and Bristol.

In the afternoon of the 26th the Emergency meeting on the crisis in independent living took place at parliament hosted by DPAC and Inclusion London.  An event originally planned by Just Fair to launch their report to the UN rapporteur which DPAC and Inclusion London stepped in to run with a new focus on the crisis in independent living.  This was in response to the successful appeal outcome at the courts on the Independent Living Fund-and the continuing awareness of the crisis for ILF users, those trying to access local authority support and the Government’s apparent non-compliance with article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The afternoon launched DPAC’s report on the crisis in independent living and cumulative impacts of the cuts, one of many that DPAC is working on, as well as the film by Mary Laver an ILF user. The afternoon was complimented by speeches from John Evans and reflection on the past battles for independent living.  We heard from the brilliant Louise Whitfield (one of the solicitors in the ILF case) and were treated to an excellent DPAC theatre performance which brought to life the reality of impacts on disabled people and the different barriers we face.

Despite extremely short notice the event was well attended by MPs and those from the Lords. Kate Green , Hywell Williams, Katy Clarke, Anne Begg, John McDonnell, Jim Shannon, Andy Slaughter, Baroness  Campbell, Baroness Wilkins  and a host of others including Mary Laver’s MP.  Apologies were sent from Anne McGuire, Caroline Lucas, Lucy Powell, Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa Pierce

Mike Penning ‘our’ new minister for disability was invited but did not respond or send apologies!

Many thanks to all that attended, supported and worked so hard towards the afternoon-especially the many DPAC members and supporters that wrote to their MPs and publicised this. Some may ask why English national formal disability organisations with much more money and resources than us aren’t putting their energies into these types of activities all the time- we don’t have any answers or understanding on that.

We will have a more detailed report on the Emergency meeting on the Crisis in Independent Living event in Parliament with film and photos soon

Download DPAC report Crisis in Disabled People’s Independent Living 

See Mary Laver’s film on ILF View the movie

kljxr

Nov 152013
 

Join Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Disabled People Against Cuts for an outrageous, creative and inclusive protest against fuel poverty deaths on November 26th at 11.30am in Central London. Meeting point – well it’s a secret, for now.

On November 26th, the number of people who died last winter from cold homes will be announced. But we won’t stand for any more unnecessary deaths caused by price-hiking, polluting, profiteering, tax avoiding energy companies. So …join us as we take to the streets in central London to target one of the main energy robbers driving fuel poverty.

As the Big Six energy companies hike up prices we are told the only answer is to put on a jumper, leaving millions of us to choose between heating and eating. While the energy companies spread the lie that ‘green taxes’ are to blame, we know that the real problem is the privatisation of our energy for profit and the skyrocketing cost of dirty fossil fuels.

So bring your kids, neighbours, grandparents, your warmest jumper and your latest energy bill — and come join the fightback for the alternatives: warm, insulated homes and clean, affordable energy. It’s time to bring down the Big Six and put power back in people’s hands.

Meet outside Royal Exchange by Bank Station for short march to destination target.

See you on the streets.
#justicenotjumper

fuel poverty pic

Oct 242013
 
Following the Reclaiming Our Futures action we have set up a meeting with the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The aim of the meeting is to promote the DPAC manifesto.
To complement this there are lots of issues related to fuel poverty, energy and climate change which affect disabled people, and we wanted to have DPAC members’ and other disabled people’s input into exactly how these issues affect you.
Please contact us with your experiences and concerns on this subject, by 31st October if at all possible -you can do this direct by email to lani.parker@gmail.com
Dec 152012
 

14/12/2012 · by skwalker1964 · Bookmark the permalink. ·

This is a difficult post to write, but I think it has to be written. So please, don’t make the mistake of thinking what I’m about to say means my heart isn’t breaking at the tragic loss of lives in yet another US school shooting.

As I write, the news media are showing constant footage and updates about the terrible events in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman has entered a school armed with multiple weapons and killed, according to the latest report, at least 27 people, including 18 children, having already killed both of his parents and, so it’s reported, his brother.

It’s an awful, awful situation. I have three children, though now grown up, and one of them is a teacher, so my heart goes out to those affected. But at the same time as I’m appalled and shocked, I can’t help thinking ‘But what about…?’

You see, because of the things I write about, and the research I do for what I write, I’m aware that there are things which are just as bad – and on a much greater scale – going on constantly in this country. The news channels are devoting non-stop coverage of the events in Newtown, and it’s understandable. What isn’t understandable is why the events in this country – also horrific, and hurting far greater numbers of people – barely merit a mention in the news media, let alone saturation coverage.

Already, in the US, the pro-gun lobbies are mobilising to defend the ‘right’ to carry guns. Within minutes of the coverage beginning, I had already heard a commentator talk of how the ‘gun lobby’ was trotting out its well-worn claim: ‘Guns don’t kill people. People kill people‘, and is even trying to use the tragedy to call for more guns, arguing that fewer people would be killed by guns if more people had them ‘to defend themselves’, and that schoolteachers should carry guns to defend their pupils.

The mind boggles. But the thing is, they’re partly right. People do kill people – but guns allow them to kill others in far greater numbers than they could otherwise. Because people kill people, the more you can keep them away from guns, the more sense it makes. If you put guns in their hands, more people are going to die.

But we face a parallel situation here in the UK, and it’s what is causing those barely-mentioned and much larger tragedies I referred to above. Not because we put guns into people’s hands, but because we have power in the hands of people of ill will, stupidity, or both.

Power doesn’t kill people. People kill people. But power allows them to do so on a vast scale. Perhaps you think I’m crass to do anything but join in with the public show of horror and grief about the events in Connecticut – but let me tell you about some of those almost-hidden tragedies first, and then if you still think I’m crass, at least you’ll be making an informed judgment.

In Newtown, 29 people died in today’s shooting, plus the gunman, according to the latest news. It’s truly awful – but here are some other figures, which I hope will shock you commensurately. Because they should:

24,000

24,000 is the number of people who died in the UK last winter because of ‘fuel poverty’. That’s 24 thousand people who died because they couldn’t afford to heat their homes properly, and who died either of hypothermia, or of illnesses resulting from their inability to keep warm.

It’s truly a national scandal. And yet I can barely recall a mention of it on the news channels, and little more in the press. Certainly nothing like the coverage that we’re seeing now about the school shooting – or even the near-continuous coverage of the very sad death of Jacintha Saldanha. One royal-related death is big news, but 24,000 avoidable deaths, in a single winter and from a clearly identifiable, remediable cause, are apparently not. But then, the progress of the Olympic torch around the country was deemed worthy of mass coverage when the plan to privatise the NHS wasn’t, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

Our government has the power to do something about fuel poverty, in order to prevent a repeat of this national shame. So what is it doing? In a time of steep rises in fuel costs that are expected to continue for the foreseeable future – it is capping benefit rises at 1%, well below the general rate of inflation and miles below the rate of increase in energy costs (13% up to October this year, and another 8% or so from January)

330,000 – or 1.9 million

I wrote a couple of months ago about the government’s planned change from Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which is currently paid (in varying amounts) to some 3.2 million people, to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Iain Duncan Smith’s Department of Work & Pensions devised the new payment with the specific goal of excluding at least 500,000 people from the new payment who currently qualify for DLA, as a cost-saving measure.

Basing my calculations on this figure, I showed that the change will push at least 85,000 people below the poverty line – but that figure is based on an extremely unlikely hypothetical scenario in which every single person excluded is single and has no dependents. On a more likely situation, the number of people pushed into poverty will number in the hundreds of thousands.

But it appears I was over-cautious. Yesterday, the Tory Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, told the House of Commons that, of the 560,000 people who will be assessed for the new benefit by 2015, 330,000 are expected to be excluded from the benefit. That’s an exclusion rate of 59%. 3.2 million people receive DLA, so if the same failure rate applies as they become due for reassessment, that means around 1.9 million disabled people who will lose crucial support. Using the same calculations as I applied to the 500,000 initially flagged to be excluded, it means almost a million people pushed below the poverty line.

Factor that into the death rate from energy poverty, and you’re looking at a situation where the 24,000 deaths last winter will look like nothing compared to what we’re going to see, let alone the 30 innocent deaths in Connecticut.

453 – and counting

That’s the number of additional suicides that happened last year, compared to before the financial crash. As growing numbers of people face financial catastrophe, more and more are seeing suicide as the only escape. The government’s response? To demonise the unemployed,  disabled people and low earners who are forced to claim benefits – and then to cut those benefits and deepen the despair, while the rich get richer.

73 – a week

This, according to the campaign group DPAC, is the number of deaths (including suicides) among disabled people as a result of the government’s programme of Work Capability Assessments (WCAs), which is categorising people as fit for work when they are plainly not. 70% are eventually overturned on appeal – but the stress of the process and the fear of losing essential support are killing some and causing others to commit suicide. And the government is responding by capping benefits even for those who do pass the test – and closing Remploy, which provides suitable work for disabled people, while Iain Duncan Smith sneers at them and tells them ‘this is better’.

24,000. 330,000. 1.9 million. 453. 73 a week. All numbers at least as deserving of mass media attention as the 30 killed in Connecticut – and all conspicuous by their absence from the BBC and other news media.

Power doesn’t kill people. People kill people. But people with power can kill a lot of people – and this government is wreaking havoc among ordinary and vulnerable people.

The deaths of the 30 (as of now) innocents in Newtown will, rightly, bring people out onto the streets in the US – for prayer vigils, to lay flowers, to protest in favour of (and, insanely, against) gun control.

If the people of the UK became as aware, en masse, of what is taking place under the coalition government as they surely are now of what has happened in Connecticut, the streets would be packed with people protesting – and streaming to the polls in 2015 or earlier to get rid of those in power, killing people.

Which is, probably, why we’re not seeing those other numbers and many like them on our television screens.

With many thanks to Steve for agreeing to repost- please support this excellent blog-see more at http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/media-full-of-newtown-tragedy-but-far-worse-is-ignored/

Follow Steve on twitter : @skywalker 1964

 

Nov 122012
 

As energy bills soar, energy companies are increasing their profits at the expense of the poorest households, the elderly and disabled people.

Rising energy bills disproportionately affect disabled people. We are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people, on top of which additional unavoidable expenditure faced by disabled people is on average 25% higher than that for non-disabled people. Disabled people also need to spend more on energy as they are more likely to spend time indoors with fewer opportunities to go out and access community facilities to keep warm. Some impairments are aggravated by cold requiring homes to be heated at higher constant temperatures to avoid illness and hospital admissions.

Meanwhile the ‘Big Six’ who control our energy are increasing their profits at a time when the poorest households are already suffering under austerity. Between 2004 and 2010 average electricity bills increased by 60 per cent and Average gas bills increased by 90 per cent. This year after SSE’s 9% price hike in September, British Gas followed suit in October with a 6% price rise means customers will be facing an extra £100 on their annual fuel bills. British Gas profits increased 23% in the last quarter.

Increasing benefit cuts with rising energy bills is a deadly combination for disabled people.

On 27th October Disabled People Against Cuts joined the Greater London Pensioners Association and Fuel Poverty Action in an occupation of the Westfield Centre in Stratford to protest against rising energy bills:

“Pensioners, disabled people and supporters defy security and police to protest against fuel poverty in Olympic shopping centre

 Today, fifty people gathered in Stratford Westfield shopping centre to keep warm and to protest against fuel poverty. The “Warm Up” protest, organised by the Greater London Pensioners’ Association, saw pensioners join forces with disabled activists from Disabled People Against Cuts and members of direct-action network Fuel Poverty Action.

 The protest came in the wake of EDF Energy becoming the fifth of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies to controversially announce price rises in recent weeks.

 Shopping centre security and police threatened to forcibly evict the protesters, but were defied by pensioners and supporters who refused to leave. Those present accused security and police of attempting to force vulnerable people into the cold.

 Furious at energy companies’ profiteering and government cuts, the GLPA said: ‘If we can’t afford to heat our homes we have a right to go into any warm building and make ourselves at home. We asserted this right today inside the toasty Westfield Stratford shopping centre.’

 Protesters remained inside the shopping centre for an hour, leafleting shoppers and holding banners that said ‘Justice for Pensioners’ and ‘Energy to meet our needs, not for corporate greed’.  A megaphone was confiscated by police after two speeches, before protesters marched outside together chanting ‘No more deaths from fuel poverty.’

Protesters received a warm reception from shoppers, some of whom joined the protest.

 

The event saw the GLPA launch their new petition demanding:

•       That the government reinstate the Winter Fuel Allowance in full [5]

•       That the energy companies reinvest in affordable, cleaner and

safer energy supplies and use their enormous profits to do so, instead

of putting the cost onto the consumer.

•       That the government acknowledge an entitlement of all

including the sick, disabled people, the elderly and families with

young children, to a well insulated, warm place to live in good

repair.

 Betty Cottingham from the GLPA said:

‘The Greater London Pensioners’ Association are extremely concerned at the thousands of preventable deaths in this country which are attributable to the cold and outraged at the continuing weak response of the government. Even at “lower” tariffs, bills are still unaffordable. Traditionally people have gravitated to places which are warm and sheltered – most often shopping centres, buses and libraries – in order to delay putting on the heating at home and this is why we’re here today. The shutting down of day centres and luncheon clubs has left the housebound with no alternative options to stay warm. We’re protesting today and will continue to until someone takes

notice.’

 Elizabeth Ziga of Fuel Poverty Action, one of six protesters who took part in a day-long occupation of British Gas headquarters in January, said:

‘People are fed up with our energy being produced to line the pockets of the Big Six while we’re left to suffer mammoth fuel bills and escalating climate change. The Big Six and the government are blocking the alternative of renewable energy, which would be cheaper and cleaner. We’re getting ripped off and left to freeze. Today’s protest, led by pensioners, will be the first of many. Expect a winter of resistance.’”

 POSTED FROM: http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/2012/10/28/pensioners-disabled-people-and-supporters-defy-security-and-police-to-protest-against-fuel-poverty-in-olympic-shopping-centre/

 For photographs of the protest, see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/70150038@N04/

 Video of shopping centre security arguing with protesters here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZzoaNyW6qI&feature=youtube_gdata_player

 

Next Fuel Poverty Action London meeting: Thursday November 15 Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town, NW5 2DX 7pm-9pm.

Friends of the Earth have produced this briefing on Gas Prices: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/gas_price_briefing.pdf