Blackpool’s council leader has warned people in the city they “could lose their lives this winter” as the cost of living crisis puts low-income families at greatest risk of hardship.
Earl Lynn Williams says many residents live with disabilities, poor health and poverty, meaning they will suffer the most from rising energy and food costs. In a report for the next full council meeting, she says: “We are not facing a winter where people have to choose between ‘heating or eating’, some households – perhaps more than people can yet comprehend – will not to be able to afford that choice once.”
Almost a quarter of Blackpool’s population lives in low-income households, many of whom are without savings and still recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the report, 16.8 percent of households had difficulty getting food, 8.4 percent of households reported experiencing hunger and 16.3 percent of the population is energy poor.
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A meeting was held in Blackpool earlier this month, bringing together charities, community groups and public services to explore what could be done to help those worst affected. Coun Williams added: “Without, and perhaps even the concerted efforts of a multitude of public, private and third sector partners, we will see vulnerable people suffer incredibly in Blackpool this winter.
“People will lose their lives because they cannot afford basic needs. People will face incredible financial pressures, which will affect their mental health.
“We will experience a strain on family life not experienced in generations, and our children and young people will bear the effects of that strain well into adulthood.”
Blackpool Council received £1.7million from the Government’s Household Support Fund to help vulnerable residents with their living expenses between April and September this year. But Coun Williams warns in her report that after the current program ends, “local authorities don’t know how much will be available to them over the next six months”.
Even the target of £1.7m for the 25 per cent of the poorest households gives just £1.89 a week in extra support, which is ‘a fair distance from covering the rise in basic living expenses in every household’. Coun Williams also warns that in-person support is already stretched, and about 12 per cent of Blackpool residents also lack internet access to help.
There are also concerns that many people who rely on card counters for gas and electricity could face disconnection because they don’t pay their bills. Coun Williams says for those in the worst of situations, “putting on a sweater isn’t necessarily the right solution.”
Their report states: “Many groups representing people with disabilities believe that the aid announced so far is insufficient to support people with disabilities and are pushing for more targeted support.
“A disability or poor health makes life more expensive. You may be more reliant on heating around the house to stay healthy — and if you can’t avoid the cold because you can’t afford to heat your house, putting on a sweater isn’t necessarily the answer.