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‘I come to the library to keep warm’: Norfolk residents battling fuel poverty | Fuel poverty


Each weekday Andrew Murkin involves Downham Market library for books, wifi and – most significantly – heat.

Murkin, who’s 63 and receives incapacity advantages, lives in a bungalow within the Norfolk city and as his vitality payments rose this winter he determined to warmth just one room for 2 hours a day.

“In the winter I come to the library to keep warm,” he stated. “I like to get up early. But sitting at home is miserable in the cold.”

At weekends, when his native library is generally closed, he has few choices. “In winter I just sit at home with my coat on and a duvet on,” he stated. “I’ve been wearing two T-shirts, two jumpers and a coat inside. A lot of my friends do the same.”

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The plight of Elsie, a 77-year-old who ate one meal a day and travelled on buses to remain heat, grew to become emblematic of the price of residing disaster after Boris Johnson was confronted together with her story in a Good Morning Britain interview. Her case has highlighted the challenges confronted by older individuals unable to fulfill the price of rising payments.

In Downham Market, close to King’s Lynn, the library is a lifeline for older and weak individuals searching for someplace heat to go time with out spending cash.

The south of the city has the ward with the very best proportion of pensioners in England and Wales, with 57% over-65. Lots of them depend on the library.

Murkin is the primary particular person to reach at its Only a Cuppa session on Friday morning, a weekly occasion providing free tea and biscuits.

He used to work as a welder earlier than issues along with his diabetes and mobility two years in the past made that too troublesome. “It’s hard getting by on the money you get on benefits,” he stated.

He has moved his mattress into the lounge in order that he solely must warmth one room. “I go to bed a lot earlier than I used to just to keep warm,” he stated.

Items such as clothing, soap and sanitary products are being given away to visitors at the town’s library to help them cut down on bills.
Gadgets corresponding to clothes, cleaning soap and sanitary merchandise are being given away to guests on the city’s library to assist them lower down on payments. {Photograph}: Si Barber/The Guardian

This winter the library launched free Preserve Heat and Go baggage full of all the pieces somebody might have who was struggling to maintain the chilly away, together with gloves, thermals, a shawl, blanket and a hat.

Fran Valentine, the library’s supervisor, stated it had proved widespread. “We’ve had a lot of people coming in and picking them up,” she stated.

When Joan Mulholland, 89, came upon final month her vitality payments had been as a consequence of enhance once more, she panicked. “I rang up the company and said: ‘I’m not going to be able to afford £200 a month.’”

She will get by on a state pension and is anxious it won’t be sufficient this winter. “I’m thinking of stopping my TV licence off to pay for the heating,” she stated. “My weekly food bill has gone up by about £2 a week and I’ve cut back as much as I can.”

Her late husband, Adrian, used to fabricate electrical elements and was additionally on a state pension. Since he died of most cancers three years in the past she has discovered it more durable to fulfill the prices of operating the bungalow they shared within the south of the city.

“It’s very difficult because I live on my own. I have to watch things like not putting too much water in the kettle. Lighting the oven for one meal works out very expensive when there’s only one of you, so I’m going to move to salads and not cook too much.”

Jean Mulholland.
Jean Mulholland: ‘I’ve reduce as a lot as I can.’ {Photograph}: Si Barber/The Guardian

She tries to warmth the home as little as attainable to save lots of up for the approaching winter. “Getting older you feel the cold much more and it’s very hard sometimes to sit there and think: ‘Well, I can’t turn on the heating.’”

Alex Coates, who runs the city’s meals financial institution, says demand has soared since March as the price of petrol, meals and vitality elevated.

“It’s not just people on benefits, it’s two-parent families who are both working and they are struggling to decide whether to feed their children, put fuel in their car or heat their homes. That’s the dilemma a lot of families are facing,” she stated.

The general public coming to them are mother and father with youngsters and he or she worries that pensioners are struggling in silence.

Downham Market in Norfolk. The South Ward of the town has the highest proportion of people over 65 in the country.

Downham Market in Norfolk. The South Ward of the city has the very best proportion of individuals over 65 within the nation.
{Photograph}: Si Barber/The Guardian

“That age group is very proud. We only really find out about them if they’ve been referred to us by a doctor or adult social services,” she stated.

They’re planning to bulk-buy hot-water bottles to present out earlier than subsequent winter, “so when people boil the kettle for their tea they can put the water that’s left in them to keep warm”.

Jill, 69, a former nursery employee, is the second to reach on the library for tea. She has few financial savings and is reliant on her pension. She has lower proper again to make the prices add up.

“I only have the heating and hot water on for an hour in the morning and then I get out in the garden and dig,” she stated. “I go to bed early with an electric blanket. If I didn’t have that it would be terrible.”



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