Does ‘perfect storm’ face Suffolk’s poorest families this winter?

Tim Holder (right) with EADT/Ipswich Star editor Brad Jones and Joshua Hopkins from supporter Hopkin

Tim Holder (right) with EADT/Ipswich Star editor Brad Jones and Joshua Hopkins from supporter Hopkins Homes at the launch of the Surviving Winter Campaign 2018 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s poorest families could be facing the “perfect storm” of winter misery this year – with the threat of increased food prices on top of increasing fuel poverty.

That was the warning from the Suffolk Community Foundation as it prepares for this year's Surviving Winter charity appeal - and comes after new figures show more than 35,000 families in the county suffer from fuel poverty.

The cumulative effects of a decade of austerity and falling wages has left more families struggling, said Tim Holder from the foundation.

"And with the very real threat of increased food prices because of Brexit, which will hit the poorest hardest, things are looking really worrying.

"If we get a harsh winter on top of this (some weather experts have suggested there could be a long cold spell) we really could be literally facing the perfect storm."

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Mr Holder's warning came after figures shows that 10.7% of homes in Suffolk were suffering from fuel poverty - once they had paid for fuel, the household income would be below the poverty line.

The problem is especially serious in rural parts of the county, said Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC - which represents the oil heating industry.

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He warned that many rural homes were poorly insulated - and had inefficient heating systems. He said: "In a few months' time when the winter weather returns, keeping warm and managing energy bills will once again become a source of concern for many households.

"It is shocking that in 2019 so many people still cannot afford the basic human right of living in a warm house."

Mr Holder said one of the big issues facing rural families was the fact that fuel deliveries often came with a large bill for hundreds of litres of heating oil - rather than constantly feeding a gas meter with small amounts.

The Surviving Winter Appeal has been running for many years supported by the EADT and Ipswich Star. It encourages those who get Winter Fuel Payments and do not need them to donate the money to the appeal - and for anyone else who wants to help to make a donation.

It is due to be launched in November. Last year's Surviving Winter Appeal in Suffolk raised more than £125,000 which was distributed to families struggling with fuel poverty. Over eight years £615,000 has been raised.

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