As I wrote the other day, up to 24,000 people died last winter, directly or indirectly, because of ‘fuel poverty’. Well, today BBC News mentions an announcement by ‘government advisors’ that another 300,000 households are expected to be fuel-poor by Christmas.
That’s households, not individuals – assuming just 3 people per household, that’s at least another 900,000 people. According to the BBC, over 6.5 million households will then be in fuel poverty – and this figure is expected to reach 9 million by 2016.
If 24,000 died from around 6 million fuel-poor households last winter, if we have severe cold this winter it means we can expect another 26,000 to die this year, and around 36,000 each year from 2016.
Of the people in fuel poverty, around half are pensioners, a third are disabled, and 20% are families with children under 5. The rise in energy prices is hitting our most vulnerable hardest.
This is the context in which the government’s decision to cap benefit rises to a well-below-inflation 1% needs to be understood – and don’t forget that 60% of benefit-claimants are low-paid, working people who, along with the unemployed, will predominate among the fuel-poor. The government’s ‘shirker’ rhetoric is vicious nonsense.
Seen in their right context of energy prices rising far faster than inflation and of the death toll incurred, this government’s actions, and its determination to cut tens of billions more from welfare spending while offering tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, are not just callous, ideologically-driven and criminally incompetent.
They are murderous.