The People’s Champion: Millions shouldn’t have to borrow to heat their homes


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The Independent Online

The most upsetting statistic of the week? The news that some 2.5 million people may have to borrow money to heat their homes this Christmas.

That’s upsetting for a number of reasons. Heating a home shouldn’t be a choice, but it is proving to be a tough decision that far too many people are being forced to make.

We already know that many pensioners are forced to choose each winter to heat or eat and that potentially thousands of winter deaths could be prevented by ensuring that vulnerable people have adequate heating.

We also know that this month most people will be facing higher energy bills after the Big Six suppliers hit us all with winter fuel hikes of up to £120.

Why do we allow this? Even one death caused by someone being unable to afford to heat their home properly should sicken us all. I’m not sure there’s a simple solution, but the government and energy firms should certainly find one as a matter of extreme priority.

The first step must be to find out who the at-risk people are and ensure that their health doesn’t suffer because they are too frightened to turn the heating on in their home. The Department of Work and Pensions should be driving the search.

The 2.5 million figure was based on research by affordable property group Circle Housing. The research also suggested that 350,000 people forced to borrow money to pay for Christmas will use a payday loan while nearly 150,000 will turn to an unofficial lender or loan shark.

Either move is likely to give the poor unfortunate folk a financial headache in the New Year.




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