- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Categories: Latest News, Press Releases
MIKE HEDGES ASKS WHAT THE WELSH GOVERNMENT IS CAN DO TO HELP PEOPLE IN THE COST OF LIVING CRISIS
Speaking from the Senedd, Local Swansea East MS said….. ‘we know that we are in the middle of one of the greatest cost of living crisis most of us can remember; we also know it is going to get worse before it gets better. It is vital therefore that the Welsh Government does all it can to help organisations such as food banks who support people in great need.
It is also important for the Government to do what it can to deal with the outrages of standing charges for energy, even when people do not use any. The issues of pre-payment meters is one of the scandals of our age; people on the lowest incomes get charged higher rates ( in advance) for services essential to life.
Shame on the energy companies for continuing to impose these charges when they are making millions of pounds profit!’
Many children are living in poverty not caused by parental indolence or wastefulness; many parents are working two or three jobs, but at minimum wage, on irregular hours. The expansion of free school meals to a universal provision of meals is very welcome. What further help can the Welsh Government give to support foodbanks, and will the Welsh Government make representation to end the fixed charge by energy companies, which means people are paying for energy on days they do not use any? This is the cruellest charge you’ve got—you don’t use any energy for five days, and you then heat a bowl of soup, which costs you somewhere around £2.50 or £3.00.8
First Minister of Wales
Mike Hedges makes some really important points, Llywydd. I think it’s one of the most pernicious myths of poverty that poverty is somehow caused by the people who are in poverty. I’ve never met people who could manage money better than those people who have the least of all to manage by—they have to. And the idea that it’s parental indolence or neglect is absolutely to be rejected. The Welsh Government announced a further £1 million to support anti-poverty work at community level in Wales only a couple of weeks ago. That comes now to £5 million in this financial year. And much of that goes directly to foodbanks, who now find that the donations that they were able to rely on previously are drying up as families even further up the income level are unable to manage the impact of energy price and food inflation. Sioned Williams drew attention to the work of the Bevan Foundation, Llywydd, and she will now that, in that work, it isn’t just families who are on the very lowest incomes who report that they cannot now afford the basics; it’s families further up the income range as well, as people find that the things that they’ve made commitments to while they were in better times are now beyond their reach.9
And the point that Mike Hedges makes about standing charges and pre-payment meters, Llywydd, is, I think, one of the great injustices of our time. I raised this directly with UK Ministers at the British-Irish Council when it met in July, and I wrote immediately afterwards to the UK Government Minister who attended, asking him to take action at a UK level to cancel standing charges for people who rely on pre-payment meters. There can be nothing worse, Llywydd, can there, than to find, having not had access to energy for many days and scraping the money together to be able to charge the pre-payment meter again, that the money you’ve put into it is nothing like the money that you have found because it has already been taken away from you? In many cases, you will have been put on a pre-payment meter because of debt. There are 60,000 new pre-payment meter customers in the United Kingdom so far this year. Their meters are calibrated so that the first thing they have to do is pay back the money they owe. Then they find that, in all the days where they had no electricity at all, they have to pay a standing charge for a time when they weren’t able to access the service. Imagine how galling that must be. The point that Mike Hedges makes about the action that could be taken, at very little cost, I believe, to the Government or to the companies, to put that injustice right is a really important call we’ve heard this afternoon.