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Poor 'choosing between eating and heating' Foodbank organiser claims
4:00am Friday 25th October 2013 in News
The director of Kingston Foodbank has warned the rising cost of energy bills is leaving an increasing number of residents poor and hungry.
In the week three of the six major power companies announced substantial price hikes, Paul Pickhaver said residents were already calling the charity having forgone food shopping to pay gas and electricity bills.
Mr Pickhaver, who is also part of the Christian People's Alliance political party, said: “Already this week we have had two calls from people specifically mentioning that their large energy bills are the reason they don’t have money for food.
"One of the calls was from a hard working but low income family who simply couldn’t make ends meet as their income was static but costs for so many items were rising.
"One example we have seen is a young person having to spend over 50 per cent of their benefit income to meet gas and electricity costs.
"They are relieved to know that through generous food donations from local people, Kingston Foodbank is able to provide some emergency support."
Mr Pickhaver said although most energy companies ran schemes to help those struggling to pay their bills, not enough was done to raise awareness of them.
The assessment process for the schemes also took too long, he said, with some customers waiting six to 10 weeks for a response.
Mr Pickhaver said: “That’s a very long time for someone already in crisis and struggling with the huge pressure that brings on individuals and families.”
The foodbank organiser also called for a lower rate scheme to be made available to people on small incomes using pre-pay meters, saying: “It’s simply wrong that the very poorest people in Kingston have to pay more per unit for their gas and electricity use than the richest.
“Something should be done to address that urgently.”