Home Finance Energy bills warning as report finds rises are sparking 'Dickensian' conditions

Energy bills warning as report finds rises are sparking 'Dickensian' conditions

Social workers are reporting “Dickensian” conditions as some families choose between heating and eating, according to a union survey.

Professionals in the sector are “all too often” reporting that people they are trying to support are “living in substandard and dangerous housing”, the Social Workers Union (SWU) said.

In a snapshot of the experiences of some of those working with the most vulnerable families across the UK, social workers reported the consequences of high energy costs.

Some said the families they work with did not have enough money for “basic essentials” this winter, while others reported that “families are living in cramped and mouldy” conditions.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition said there must be a “structured programme of financial support announced well in advance to help people through next winter”.

The small survey was completed in February by 716 social workers just over four percent of the 16,000 frontline social workers who are members of the SWU. Some 348 of the respondents gave written comments.

One wrote: “It is a choice between eating and heating. The state of homes has become Dickensian.”

Another stated: “Pre-Victorian times. An absolute disgrace. Change is needed.”

John McGowan, the general secretary of SWU, stated: “While politicians try to kid themselves that the cost-of-living crisis is over, the reports from our members show just how dangerous this winter has been.”

“Social workers often see people living in poor and unsafe housing. This happens everywhere, but it’s usually worse for those renting privately.”

“Children living in cold, damp, mouldy homes is a national scandal. We need big changes to fix Britain’s broken energy system.”

Dr Cath Lowther, the head of the Association of Educational Psychologists, said: “Children and young people can’t grow and learn properly if they’re living in the damp and the cold. It’s simply not right.”

“If the Government really wants to make life better for our children and young people, they need to start by making sure everyone has a safe, decent home.”

Simon Francis, who leads the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, added: “We need to see quicker action on improving the energy efficiency of buildings and reducing energy costs.”

“But we also need a plan for financial help for people next winter.”

A representative for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities stated: “Everyone has the right to a warm, secure and decent home, and we expect landlords to meet our energy efficiency standards before letting properties.”

“We are introducing a Decent Homes Standard in the private rented sector for the first time and have also passed the Social Housing (Regulation) Act, which will deliver significant changes across the sector to ensure landlords are held to account for their performance.”


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