Heat or eat is the unpalatable decision facing many households in our region this winter. It’s estimated that 11 per cent of households in England are in fuel poverty but levels in many parts of East Anglia are even higher than this.
In light of this, award-winning developer Hopkins Homes has announced a major donation of £150,000 to establish the Hopkins Winter Crisis Fund.
The new fund is in addition to the £500,000 Hopkins Charitable Fund which was launched last year and will seek to alleviate some of the pressures on households across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire as they struggle to keep warm this winter.
East Anglia has some of the highest levels of fuel poverty in the UK - defined as a household that has higher than typical energy costs which would be left with a disposable income below the poverty line if it spent the money required to meet those costs.
Joshua Hopkins of the Hopkins Charitable Fund said: “During our work with the community foundations for the Hopkins Charitable Fund it became apparent that there is a major crisis looming this winter.
“It’s estimated that around 40,000 households in both Norfolk and Suffolk are living in fuel poverty and the percentage of households across the Cambridgeshire area experiencing fuel poverty can be as high as 22 per cent. Last winter was a particularly harsh one weather-wise and we could be in for the same again this year. This, in combination with several factors such as the uncertainty around the roll out of universal credit, rising fuel prices, stagnant wages and higher living costs, could result in even more vulnerable people suffering this year.
“The aim of the Hopkins Charitable Fund has always been to support some of the most disadvantaged sections in our communities but fuel poverty affects many of these groups and households and delivering specific support with fuel bills can be challenging. As a result, I am very proud that Hopkins Homes has decided to establish the Hopkins Winter Crisis Fund, the £150,000 fund will be for the explicit provision of assistance with fuel bills and other energy saving measures.”
The fund will be distributed across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Details are being finalised, but the following funding has been announced for each county, with the level of support dependent on individual circumstances to ensure those most in need can both heat and eat this winter:
In Suffolk, £20,000 of small grants will be delivered through FIND (Ipswich Foodbank), REACH (Haverhill Foodbank) and Access Community Trust as fuel vouchers or direct support with payment of fuel bills.
In Norfolk, £20,000 of small grants will be delivered through food banks as fuel vouchers or direct support with payment of fuel bills for those in crisis.
In Cambridgeshire, £35,000 of grants will be delivered through two channels. Cambridge Central Aid Society will distribute £20,000 towards keeping homes warm through heating costs, carpets and curtain purchases and charities supporting schemes to help vulnerable old people will distribute £15,000.
Joshua continues: “The small grants for fuel vouchers and support with bills are one way we feel we can make a huge difference to the difficulties facing many vulnerable individuals in our region this winter. Already we have heard that some of the grant fund has been used to purchase heating oil for a family who have not had any since the summer.
“We are working with the community foundations in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to finalise the details of how the remaining funds will be distributed and how individuals can apply for or be offered assistance, and we hope to make further announcements soon.”