Fuel poverty hits home for people in horticulture and their families

Perennial’s services team is speaking regularly to people in horticulture who face difficult choices about whether to heat their homes or go without other necessities such as food or daily essentials. Fuel poverty is caused by low incomes, high energy prices and energy inefficient housing. 15th February is Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, organised by National Energy Action. Perennial is working with a range of agencies to raise awareness of the scale of the issue.

The reality is that the number of people seeking support at times of crisis is continuing to increase, with many unable to pay for everyday items such as food, clothing and heating. Research has shown that the number of households already in debt to their energy supplier before winter began has grown by more than 300,000 in the past year. They owed an average of £134 each.¹

Julia Hayne, Director of Services at Perennial, says:

“Poverty touches every aspect of a person’s life, including their physical and mental health. We are visiting and taking calls from more people than ever desperate to gain the specialist support they need to break the cycle of poverty they find themselves in.”

Over 80% of all fuel-poor households are considered to have additional care or support needs, meaning they either include children, the elderly, or someone with a long-term illness or disability.  Families with the highest rates of fuel poverty are lone parents (26.4%); multi-person households (15.2%); and couples with dependent children (14.7%).²

Julia continues:

“Over the past year we have also seen the growing impact of poverty on the children of people working in horticulture. Crisis and emergency support for food, energy, housing and day to day living costs accounts for over 44% of all the financial assistance we provided in 2018 (from personal items to crisis grants), which has increased overall by 16% over the last 2 years.”

Financial pressure fuels energy poverty

Many self-employed people and small businesses tell Perennial that cashflow is a challenge over the winter months, with some relying heavily on personal savings until spring when work often picks up. The services team can help people budget to avoid a cash flow crisis either with tailored one-to-one advice, or via our online budgeting tool.

Physical and mental health suffers over winter

Physical health issues caused by cold homes predominantly relate to cardiovascular and respiratory problems. This can be a real issue for people working in horticulture who rely on good physical health to remain in work. Low temperatures also diminish resistance to infection and encourage damp and mould growth in homes. Cold indoor conditions have also been linked to poor mental health resulting from anxiety and stress. Social isolation can be exacerbated when a home does not provide a welcoming environment and there is evidence that cold homes can reduce educational attainment.³

Read about Simon, a landscape gardener who Perennial supports with financial help and personal support. He has ongoing mental health issues but when Perennial first started working with him, he was living without heating, lights or hot water.

Julia concludes:

“Advice and support and practical heating and insulation improvements can help address many of the problems associated with fuel poverty. We are ready to help anyone working in, or retired from horticulture with free and confidential advice and support for as long as it’s needed. Our friendly and experienced team is just a phone call away and we urge anyone who is struggling financially or worried about fuel or other bills over the winter months, to contact us as soon as possible.”

If you, or someone you know, needs help contact Perennial on 0800 093 8510 or email services@perennial.org.uk

¹Households are usually expected to be in credit with their supplier following a summer period of low energy consumption, ahead of the higher electricity and gas consumption to come in the colder months. But research by the consumer website uSwitch found a 10th of them, 2.93 million, were in debt to their supplier in October 2018, up from 2.62 million in October 2017. Source: Uswitch/guardian
² Source: Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy fuel poverty statistics, detailed table 2017, England. National Statistics.
³ Source: National Energy Action (NEA)