No heating or hot water, because no spare money for problems. This isn’t going to change, is it

Am posting this because I talk to so many people in the exact situation described below. I feel that the ongoing nature of these occurrences needs noting while mainstream press and political worthies devote attention and resources pretty much exclusively to Brexit and Labour infighting, etc.

I talk again and again to people in this sort of situation. Nothing seems to be changing very fast:

Here you see gas and electric fuel cards belonging to Patrick, a pensioner I spoke to at a foodbank and kitchen lunch in Oldham at the end of February.

Short story, this. Patrick had run out of fuel credit. Upshot: he didn’t have working heaters or hot water in his home. He’d come down to the soup kitchen, because he’d heard foodbanks and kitchens had fuel topup money and vouchers.

Patrick said he thought the boiler in his place might have sucked through more fuel credit than usual. Point was – he didn’t have the money that he needed to get the fuel supplies going again, or to keep supplies going for a reasonable length of time while he sorted the trouble out.

Which is the thing.

I know government doesn’t give a damn about this, but I’m saying it anyway. Again. There are people who don’t have £10 or £20 or £30 or £100 or whatever to throw at everyday financial difficulties. When the problems come, they’re major by definition. As soon as these problems hit, people find themselves trying to live without the basics in the space of a day or two.

A new boiler guzzles a few extra quid on a metre and that’s a big worry. People lose a tenner or £20 walking down the street and they’ve got a problem. They miss a rent payment for whatever reason and end up with rent arrears that they’ll never escape. Long story short: there’s a whole bunch of people who can never buy themselves peace of mind for even an hour.

As I see it, people fall into one of two groups these days.

There’s the group of people who always have a few quid spare to throw at life’s everyday crises: unexpected fuel costs, charges for a doctor’s letter, lost money, a lost phone charger, extra phone costs, a torn winter coat, lost trainers, extra housing costs – whatever.

Then, there’s the group of people who don’t. People can either pay their way out of a problem, or they can’t. And that’s it.

You can forget popular political binaries such as The Deserving and The Undeserving Poor. That sort of thematic populist crap couldn’t be less relevant to reality. All that matters in reality is whether or not you have enough money to buy distance from life’s curveballs. There’s a big gap between people who do and don’t. Still.

10 thoughts on “No heating or hot water, because no spare money for problems. This isn’t going to change, is it

  1. Pingback: No heating or hot water, because no spare money for problems. This isn’t going to change, is it | Kate Belgrave | Declaration Of Opinion

  2. This should not be happening. In an age where we live on our phones, our laptops, tablets, pc’s…whatever, there should be more outrage about this.

    It annoys me that a rumour about the break-up of a celebrity couple can spread like wildfire via the internet yet, the REAL scandal, that our own Government are allowing this to happen, is barely making a dent.

    Nobody, and I mean nobody, regardless of age should be forced to live without either food or heating. These aren’t luxuries, these aren’t even “basics”, these are tools essential to survival.

    Something has to change, and change NOW.

  3. There is something soooooo wrrrroonnnnnng
    when a pensioner who undoubtedly did what he could to provide for himself when he was young and able,
    should now find himself in a stressful and very frustrating situation in which he doesn’t have a working boiler where he lives
    which means he has to live in a flat without heat during cold weather
    and no hot water to have a bath in.
    What is going on in our country?
    Unless I mistaken, Britain is the 5th richest country in the world,
    and yet pensioners (such as the man mentioned in Kate’s post) are so in want of money
    which means he/she have to choose between eating or heating.
    I can’t help but call upon the name of Jesus
    because I can’t think of anyone that is unlike so many people today…selfish, greedy, indifferent, and heartless
    and so many of those people can be found within the so called establishment and the capitalist system
    and they together are responsible for the appalling situation that pensioners (and young people find themselves in, even when they try hard to be self reliant)
    they still end up in want, because the system is weighed against them, but in favor of the establishment and greed driven big business who often take more and give less in return
    as if they forget that we all need the basic necessities.
    I shake my head in sadness.

  4. And even those who look down on the poor, the homeless, the sick and the disabled as if they are somehow ‘scroungers’ would be well advised to take note. Often it’s the case they manage to make ends meet through using their credit cards. In other words, they are exactly in the same situation as those they despise, perhaps just a little removed, which works fine until they lose their jobs, or inflation suddenly takes off, (which is bound to happen sometime – Brexit could well trigger that). The old saying that the majority are only two pay packets from the street is still just as relevant as ever.

    It would be an act of benign self-interest to ensure that the basics of life are taken care of. So what if it creates a group of people who don’t want to go out and work in the conventional sense. Far more important is that it would create a better society, a less stressed society, indeed, quite likely a better functioning society – which would hardly be difficult in the circumstances!

    I agree with Mrbblee, many of us are too obsessed with ‘celebrity’ culture, (though I don’t often have the first clue who these supposed celebrities are) celebrating the antics of people who are basically over-hyped talentless parasites.

    Huge amounts of public money are squandered on the maintenance of one family of benefit scroungers who don’t just have one house provided by the state, but a string of them up and down the UK, and we’re not talking council houses here, but whole palaces and castles. Time to get rid of them, and to get rid of the kinds of government that allows this situation to continue.

    Something also needs to be done about the continuing escalation of so called social rents which are increasingly becoming unaffordable to anyone on real average wages, let alone ‘poor’ people. I recently received a proposal from my housing association to increase my rent by 10.5%, but I got on to one of my local Welsh Assembly Members, and as a result, the housing association has ‘taken a look at things’ and decided to reduce the increase to a mere 7.5%, (Over THREE times the rate of inflation, which, I guess, is better than five times the rate of inflation) and whilst better, (and I can, at the moment, afford it) it’s still rising at a rate that is unaffordable for a great many.

    Trouble is, how do we go about making the changes we need? Kate’s blog is an important contribution in making more of us aware of the true situation, but reading what she writes is also harrowing in that it’s often about people who have completely given up, lost all hope. It’s almost as if they’ve accepted the inevitable, as if somehow the situation is just the way things are. They don’t trust politicians, (and who can blame them?) and whether we like it or not, it is politicians who are crucial in making the big changes in government policies that are so badly needed. Ideally people themselves need to be the change, but at the moment that is impossible. We no longer have many of the self-help organisations that people themselves created in the absence of the Welfare State that replaced those initiatives. Where are the friendly societies, the terminating building societies or initiatives such as The Peckham Experiment or the Tredegar Medical Aid Society? We have none of these alternatives now, just a failing state monopoly to turn to.

  5. You’re going to get some folk who’ll look at this story and make remarks about ‘putting on another jumper’ because they have no idea how debilitating having no heating or hot water can be. The damp that gets into your clothes and furniture. The cold that gets into your bones. When I was younger I could get through it but when you age it’s harder to stand and stay healthy.
    Never – or not since the 1930s – so not in our lifetime – has there been such a public attitude that if you’re poor you deserve to be punished – in some cases by death.
    How did we get here?
    Why are so few people bothered?

  6. I just want to follow up my previous comments by saying that we shouldn’t be surprised to find that so called ” celebrity couples” are given more attention by the media than the far more important fact that many people young and elderly are struggling to survive
    and having sometimes go without food in order to stay warm in there homes and visa versa.
    Our society is on whole extremely selfish and that is becoming more obvious as certain politicians are raking money in
    while many pensioners have barely anything to live on.
    But is this situation hopeless?
    No it isn’t.
    But it won’t change until the people who ultimately control it (the establishment and the capitalists) decide to change the situation so that eventually the want and poverty highlighted on this blog becomes the exception rather than the norm.
    But I have to be realistic and ask what are the chances of that ever happening in my and your lifetime?
    Pigs will never fly
    and if we have endured 13 years of a labour government, and 5 years of a Lib/con coalition and 2 years of a Tory government,
    and a pensioner by the name of Patrick lives in a home and doesn’t have enough money to keep himself warm, let alone be able to have hot water to wash himself,
    what does that say about the system in our country?
    What I take from that is that the ‘Patrick’s’ in our society are not a priority in the eyes of the authorities.
    Otherwise it would be impossible for a pensioner in the 5th richest country in the developed world to be in want of basic things such as access to central heating and hot water
    let alone food.
    Such a outrage should be headline news day and night till it drives our selfish, greedy, negligent governments crazy
    and moves them to deal with this glaring injustice.
    The political party that is supposed to be on our side
    already spent 13 years in government and blew the opportunity to make want a thing of the past.
    And now we are stuck with a Tory government who even more negligent.
    So what can we do?
    Vote for Labour in the hope that they have learned a much needed lesson and won’t take the electorate’s support for granted again?
    I must say would prefer a Labour government in 2020 than another Tory one.
    But whoever takes the reigns
    will have to do something to deal with the want among pensioners.
    It’s not fair or right that they should have to struggle while MP’s such as George Osbourne is raking it in
    and he is the man responsible for the austerity measures which is squeezing the life out of working class people.
    I am almost lost for words to describe how I feel.
    But again I say that we should not be surprised to find that poor pensioners are not important to the Tory media.

  7. And yet how many people, working-class people in particular, will vote Tory in 2020 ? The Welfare State all but destroyed, the NHS still being sold off piece by piece. Now it looks as if they are going turn on pensioners.
    It has been just like Turkeys voting for Christmas.

    • John,
      I agree with you.
      Notice how MP’s always talk up democracy,
      but who benefits from it?
      Obviously not Patrick.
      But if Patrick happened to be an mp
      he would find that want for basic necessities would be as far away from him as the sky is from the ground.
      But why should being an MP mean that they get more privileges than the people they are meant to serve?
      The fact that being an MP separates them economically, socially, suggests to me that British Democracy is unbalanced and very unfair.
      I wonder what Patrick’s local MP would say or do if he/she knew about the situation he is in?
      The fact that Patrick finds himself in the situation he is
      in a country that loves to boast about its so called Values and democracy, is undeniable evidence that democracy is used by the Elected elite who then use their position to benefit themselves far and above the people they are elected to serve.
      Under such unfair conditions
      it is little wonder that outcry from the working classes is growing louder
      but though their voices are heard by MP’s
      they rarely act upon them because they really don’t care and are too busy filling their own pockets and milking the corrupt system for all it is worth.
      And as you rightly said John,
      the people still give their vote to the very people who are making their lives hard and bitter.

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