More than a third of Welsh households are struggling to heat their homes, this is almost 50% higher than the British average. The current pressures on UK households mean that 24% are struggling to keep warm, 15% struggling with rising food costs and 50% say winter pressures are impacting on their physical and mental health (ONS figures, released on 30th Jan 2023).
The Rainbow Foundation’s Community Agents are seeing evidence of this on a weekly basis, and whilst they cannot solve the current cost of living crisis, they can help.
Community Agent Carla Lovell says: “a lot of my clients used to get taxi to cafes and have a cup of tea to natter with their friends, but they cannot afford to do that anymore. More and more people are becoming isolated and living in a single room in their homes as that is all they can afford to heat.”
Shirley O’Connor contacted Rainbow’s Community Agent service in December. Bereaved and living alone, Shirley isolated during covid due to health concerns, and rising prices had made it harder for Shirley to manage her finances and enjoy the quality of life that she had before.
“Last week I had to buy new glasses, so I couldn’t afford to put my payment for gas in. I will have to be in bed for 6pm.” said Shirley.
Shirley applied for pension credit over 6 months ago due to her low income. Despite the DWP aiming to process claims for pension credit within 35 days, over 50% of claims are taking much longer and are putting pensioners like Shirley at risk of further financial hardship.
This week, Shirley was supported by Carla to access £260 in allowances to help with the cost of living and has been given support to chase her Pension Credit payments.
“Despite pension credit delays, it’s important that people claim it, as it unlocks entitlement to wider benefits and support, including vouchers towards the cost of glasses” says Carla.
Thankfully Shirley has since had her pension credit paid in the past few days, however many people are still in the position she was in, waiting for news.
Another client of Carla’s is Penny Evans, Penny was spending most of her days in one room and struggling to manage her finances. When asked how often Penny was putting the heating on, she said “when I’m having a shower, once a week, because of the expense of the gas…to be honest it’s not fair. I worked hard all my life. We’re scrimping and saving; it is a worry.”
Since receiving support from Carla, Penny has had a full financial assessment, and has had help with budgeting, giving her more financial freedom to pay for everything she needs.
Penny said “I don’t know what I would do without [Carla]. I’d still be living on £70 a week and waiting to hear from the bank. Her help has made such a difference to how worried I get.”
Carla said, “While we cannot stop costs rising, what we can do is ensure that people are getting as much financial support as they are entitled to and are able to access funding that can help them through this difficult time. You don’t need to feel alone, The Rainbow Foundation are here to help in any way that we can.”
Ian Pope, Operational Director here at the Rainbow Foundation, says: “Our Community Agent service provides free advice, information, and support for the over 50’s in our local communities. We can help people to maximise their income, reduce their loneliness and isolation and help them take control to improve their health and wellbeing. There is no need to struggle in silence as there is so much we can do to support. Not only through our team of community agents, but also through our day opportunities service, lunch clubs, Rainbow Meals and many support groups and drop-in sessions. So please come forward if you need support.”