The chilling cost of living dilemma facing families highlighted by Leighton Buzzard Observer through Heat & Eat campaign

'Lots of people are already feeling crushed by the rising energy prices and it’s impacting on their everyday decisions'

By Steve Sims & Joanna Gravett
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 12:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 4:10 pm

Today the Leighton Buzzard Observer joins forces with JPIMedia’s hundreds of newspapers and websites across the country in a newly-launched campaign to highlight the cost of living crisis facing families.

Rising costs will increasingly affect households across the UK in the coming months due to several factors, and it’s clear that many people - already stretched to the limit with their finances - will struggle to get by. Some will be faced with having a difficult choice to make on whether to spend money on fuel or food.

Our ‘Heat & Eat - fight the cost of living crisis’ crusade, following the recent JPIMedia Keep Us Warm This Winter drive that won support from opposition leader Keir Starmer among others, highlights current heating or eating dilemmas, why such cash-strapped cost of living choices arose and what solutions can now best address issues involved.

JPIMedia Heat and Eat campaign. Top right: Leighton Linslade Helpers food bank headquarters; bottom left: donations to Leighton Linslade Homeless Service.

Leighton-Linslade Helpers has been helping families since being set up during the pandemic and acknowledges that pressure of household budgets is mounting.

Chair Sarah Cursons said: “We are doing a leaflet drop of the whole town so everyone is aware of us, and so that anyone who needs help knows that we are here and that we do food parcels and can deliver.

“We are always there even though things are getting tougher and tougher. We are here to help and we are not going anywhere.

“At the moment we have lots of people who are just generally struggling. Universal Credit barely covers anyone’s bills so it will keep on getting worse I believe. But we are here to help and we are a permanent feature of the town now.”

Donations to Leighton Linslade Homeless Service during the pandemic.

The Helpers’ foodbank helps anyone who might be in crisis. Even if it is just a one-off, they can assist.

Sarah added: “There is no judgement. We can help anyone, and that’s something we are very proud of. Thank you to our volunteers. They are amazing, top class!”

Rosie George, of Leighton-Linslade Homeless Service, said the charity is anticipating increased requests for food parcels as prices for winter heating soar.

She said: “Referrals continue to come from organisations that support families and individuals on limited budgets, social workers in particular work hard to help people who are facing very challenging choices - whether bills can be paid, food can be provided and heating can be organised. 2022 is going to be very challenging for many people.

The Leighton Linslade Helpers's food bank headquarters.

“We receive referrals from local schools, observant of the needs of their pupils and families, health visitors who care for people who are living alone and face cold winters and the local job centre has sent more referrals this month than we would usually receive.

“The cost of living is going to hit many people from all walks of life with many who have had to deal with reductions in income as a result of loss of employment and those on benefits are facing not only the major increase in fuel prices but a reduction in Universal Credit.

“We work in close liaison with Citizens’ Advice volunteers who work tirelessly to offer advice to people seeking help and forward referrals to us for food parcels, toiletries and cleaning materials. Central Bedfordshire housing support workers are also seeking our help as are children’s services and those who work within the mental health support team.

“Our food parcels include meal packs prepared to help provide the ingredients for meals - rather than random tins of food, there is enough of the same pie/meat/fish along with potato, rice or pasta with vegetables to make nutritious meals.

Food is one way of helping people keep warm - but with soaring fuel prices, this will obviously mean that the provision of food is only one part of the help needed, being able to cook food will be another challenge.

“We have been very grateful for donations specifically given to help with the heating challenge; without the support of the local community we would not be able to help as we do. Leighton Linslade Community Food Bank has run for several years, long before the pandemic and we continue to be here through the generosity of the people who support us.”

Kash Karimzandi, Chief Officer, Citizens Advice Leighton-Linslade, said many people getting in touch are worried about the rise in the cost of living.

She said: “Lots of people are already feeling crushed by the rising energy prices and it’s impacting on their everyday decisions – like deciding only to heat one room, or deciding to spend the day outside their home or even having to choose between using their last five pounds to buy food or top up their pre-payment meter.

“We’re particularly concerned about vulnerable people like the elderly, who need to stay warm to stay well or the disabled, some of whom need extra energy to power things like stair-lifts. Some of our clients that are struggling the most are those that have to live in housing with poor insulation and inefficient heating.

“Those on the lowest incomes are hit the hardest by this crisis.

“We know energy bills can be confusing and it can be hard to work out what’s going on. We can help you work out what’s going on with your bills and what support you’re entitled to. We could also do a benefit check and help with any energy arrears or other debts.”

To seek help contact Citizens Advice on 01525 373878 or use the online form at www.llcab.org.uk

Reacting to our campaign, South West Beds Andrew Selous said: “I am very aware of the huge rise in energy costs and what a big impact this is making on household budgets.

“The warm homes discount, winter fuel payments and cold weather payments are available to many people and there is also the household support fund and the rent arrears payments fund which may be helpful.

“The Universal Credit taper reduction will also help but I do know that the Chancellor is also looking at additional measures which I expect to be announced shortly because this is such a serious issue.”

> Are you wondering how you are going to cope with the rising cost of living? Email [email protected] with your views.