Heat & Eat.. the chilling dilemma facing Luton and Dunstable families

Highlighting the cost of living crisis and possible solutions

By Lynn Hughes
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 11:07 am
Updated Thursday, 20th January 2022, 11:08 am

Today the Luton News and Dunstable Gazette 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 (see more in this week's Luton News and Dunstable Gazette).

Heat & Eat campaign

Luton Foodbank is already seeing the impact in the need for the help it provides.

It has already seen a staggering 56% rise in the number of child parcels needed compared to this time last year, with an overall rise of 31% increase in the number of food parcels being distributed.

A spokesman said: "As prices increase and we see a reduction in certain benefits people receive, we anticipate an increase in the number of clients who are in need of visiting their local foodbank for support.

"The need of foodbank is going up and we have with the help of the community been able to meet the growing demand and will continue to do so. We have adapted and added to our service to meet the changing needs with the help of our partners."

The charity has increased the number of organisations it works in partnership with, creating a larger network of support, and now has eight distribution points where clients can collect parcels.

The spokesman said: "For past two years we have successfully distributed 500 cooked Christmas meals to those in need in partnership with Level Trust who provided toys. Over 300 breakfast packs have been distributed to local schools to support their breakfast clubs, as well as bonus items that can be shared with families. And we shared 250 Activity packs within our parcels, which we received from the British Library and will be sharing another 250 received from Story Corner."

To access support from Luton Foodbank

>Contact any of their Referral partners such as LBC Crisis Team 0800 456 1673 or Citizens Advice on 0808 278 7847

> Contact them directly on 01582 725838 or [email protected]>If you have children attending schools, speak to the family worker or their safeguarding lead, who may be able to complete an assessment for you.

The support available includes emergency food parcels, advise via the Foodbank Advisors, and connecting clients to local services for further support.

A spokesman for Luton Council said: "The council recognises that the coming year will be challenging for many people due a number of factors such as rising inflation, the increasing cost of utilities and the weekly shopping basket.

"Our Luton 2040 vision of a town where everyone can thrive and poverty is eradicated relies heavily upon the long standing relationship and cooperation established with the public sector, businesses, schools and the voluntary and community sector.

"We appreciate that everyone’s finances can be affected adversely and always encourage residents to talk to us immediately if they are feeling under specific pressures to pay their council tax or rent. Very often the challenges residents face are complex.

"This is why we work through Luton Access, a change partnership that has set out to better meet the holistic needs of Luton citizens. It recognises the huge opportunities that arise from partnership working to create simple to access, integrated Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) services, for the benefit of customers and for the wide range of public sector funders.

"As well as this signposting to specialist agencies as a means of practical support, our airport company, Luton Rising supports the voluntary sector with £7.4m enabling vital assistance to be given to those who are most in need.

"The council operates a generous council tax support scheme which provides invaluable financial relief to pensioners, people with disabilities, low income households with children and carers.

"We also provide Discretionary Housing Payments to help people with arrears and those that cannot afford to pay their rent if there is a shortfall as long as they meet the necessary criteria.

"Individuals in need of support with food or utility costs can make an application for Local Welfare Assistance can help individuals or families in severe financial hardship, especially if there is a risk to health or safety. This fund can provide a referral to the local food bank or help with fuel payments.

"The council also continues to work to administer and distribute central government funds that have been allocated to the council to support vulnerable residents.

"To date this has seen the council working in partnership with local schools distribute over £2.4million in funding to help families including ensuring all households eligible for FSM have continued to receive support during school holidays. A further £1.3m is expected to be distributed between now and end of March 2022."

Rachel Hopkins, MP for Luton South said: “Rising rail fares, petrol prices and energy bills are mounting financial pressure on households in Luton South.

"Local people deserve access to secure and affordable energy. The Labour Party proposed a motion to cut VAT on home energy bills to offset the expected energy price rise in April, but the Conservative Party shamefully voted against it.

"The Conservative government has a responsibility to ensure people don’t have to choose between heating and eating. Its sustained inaction is intensifying the cost of living crisis for those most in need.”

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.