A word to the wise about the weather

vulnerableIt occurred to me today that while we’ve all been having a good debate about the effect of the Work Capability Assessment, as run by Atos for the Department of Work and Pensions to cut thousands of people off from disability benefits every week, we haven’t been thinking about the effect of the current cold weather on those very people.

We have spent a lot of time recently discussing people who have to make a choice between eating and heating when – especially last weekend – cutting out either of those things could have life-threatening consequences.

Now, I’m sure that Vox readers are alert to these issues but, for the sake of thoroughness, if you know anybody who is claiming – or has claimed – sickness or disability benefits near you, and who might have had them cut off lately, or be struggling to cope with what they’re receiving, or simply be vulnerable due to their own mental health or frailty…

Why not knock on their door and make sure they’re all right?

There was a news story in my Mid Wales hometown a couple of weeks ago, in which it was revealed that neighbours saved an elderly lady’s life after realising they hadn’t seen her for a couple of days. They alerted the emergency services, who forced entry to her house and found that she had suffered injury after a fall – and had been stuck in her bedroom for two days. By the time they arrived her condition was life-threatening and she had to be airlifted to hospital.

That story had a happy ending, because the person involved survived to tell the tale.

Without wanting to seem like I’m teaching my grandmother (or grandfather) to suck eggs, let’s make sure we don’t have any sad endings because of the cold weather.


19 thoughts on “A word to the wise about the weather

  1. Peachy

    Excellent post. Also though this weather allows us to spot children whose home lives are struggling; we had a child here over the weekend whose parents do their best but since one became very ill with a degenerative disorder have struggled to cope- I think they are still in shock. Over ‘snow days’ we had the chance to feed, entertain and generally give the child and parents a much needed break. We would probably not have known of this family except for our 12 year old noticing he did not have a decent school coat, lunches (well fed but in convenience food as Mum struggles to stand and make lunches) or socks. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves, but takes little and the snow can actually give us extra time to muck in- whether making someone ahot meal or clearing a path.

  2. Paul Jordan

    The UK government commissioned Professor John Hills from the London School Of Economics to examine the scale of the problem, he concluded in October 2011 that 27,000 would die that winter as a result of cold related illnesses and living in chronic fuel poverty. I’ve been campaigning on the streets of Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee and elsewhere 3 or 4 days a week with the Scottish Socialist Party to end Fuel Poverty, as we did in 2011. A charity industry has sprung up around fuel poverty, unfortunately all of them are largely funded by the energy industry, so they won’t say what is actually required. The Scottish Socialist Party are the only ones I’m aware of that are demanding a return to public ownership of what is an essential, life sustaining, service. We should be increasing the winter allowance for the elderley and other vunerable groups, not cutting it. For most people, going and collecting sticks from the wood is no longer an option. We live in an energy rich country, there is no excuse for letting people die of the cold in the 21st century. That figure again, 27,000 deaths a year in the UK. A figure that is presumably rising.

  3. colin

    the govenment dont care ………if we die …we die …all they will do is say look how much money we saved they will pat each other on the back and say well done my question to the people ….who are the terrorists? and who will deal with the enemy within when are we going to take charge and demand the arrest and trial of this murdering government?

    1. Peachy

      It’s true, they don’t care one bit. It’s great that the SSP is campiagning against this, but for many of us they are not an option for simple geographical reasons- I live in S E Wales.

    1. Peachy

      Only true to an extent- they stopped those for people with severe disabilities (highest rate DLA) a few years back, last time we got them I finally managed to buy myself a coat for that winter! Obviously those on some benefits still get them but it’s no longer universal to the most severely disabled.

    2. Paul Jordan

      It’s good of Angie to leave details of cold weather payments. HOWEVER, you MAY get it if your on JSA or other benefits, most people on these benefits mentioned are NOT ELIGIBLE, please visit the site link Angie gives for clarification. Also, the temperature has to have dropped below zero for 7 CONSECUTIVE days and the process is complicated for many and they don’t claim it, if you have internet and are checking that site you may think it is easier than it is, many elderly and vunerable people won’t have internet access or know how to use it. Makes for an easy sound bite response for the Government but not a real and practical solution for most. The allowance has been cut at the same time prices are rocketing.

      1. Peachy

        As well as adb#vising people to check Angie’s link (and thank you for that Angie, it is appreciated) also worth suggesting people look at their energy provider: many vulnerable people won’t have checked to see if there are better deals out there, and there may well be. Also check bills not running on estimates that are too high- the income-suckers that maken the most vulnerable feel they need to turn off the heating.

  4. Paul Jordan

    All the Energy companies are ripping people off. Bills have doubled in 6 years. I’m sure your advise, Peachy, is intended to be helpful, but the suggestion that people (including the elderley and vunerable) do the Government prescribed ‘Energy company run around’, is avoiding the issue. Prices need drastically reducing for all. The elderley and vunerable need an increase in cold weather payments. Public investment in Publicly owned energy, not private profit killing 27,000 a year. No hurdles and merry-go-rounds and no excuses. Affordable energy for everyone. And when they say investment in wind turbines is another reason for increased prices, remember we are paying private companies to profit from building them. We are also paying (huge) annual rent to private landowners for the siting of the turbine on a hill top. Compulsory purchase orders would be vastly cheaper. And that gets us to the reasons the Government won’t consider people first. Private Wealth and Private Property. Not for the first time, (and not for the last, sadly), the Government would sooner see 27,000 British citizens die of cold each year, rather than threaten Private Wealth and Private Property. Don’t make excuses for murderers. Demand that people are put first.

    1. Mike Sivier

      In fairness, Peachy made it clear that “they don’t care one bit”. I didn’t see the advice as making excuses for murderers but as an attempt to help people do what they can.
      Having said that, I think your comments about the energy companies and private landlords are very well-observed. Regarding the latter, is this why George Monbiot wrote his piece in today’s Guardian, calling for a land value tax?

      1. Peachy

        My advice was based on experience: we’re vulnerable- I have 3 disabled children and I am a Carer, husband works but low income- and I shopped around for the first time last autumn and have just had a refund of over £400 surplus in the amount that our provider insisted I paid monthly but in fact was an over charge. I am more than aware of the very many atrocities and awful things this Government id doing, but as wellas all tha campaigning I like to do (mainly on disability), the very small, simple things like helping an older person not used to internet process a comparison site can also help. Please note that I said when we as a family ahd cold weather payments linked to my eldest’s high rate DLA, I was able to buy myself a coat (the money ahd gone on the electricity bills)- I DO get it. I just think there are probably people out there whose electricity company are pretty much stealing from them in the way our former one did. This week I have written 3 reports for free for the aprents of children with autism to use at educational tribunals, paying my own bills instead by selling our odl cot- I like to think I am doing my bit in my own way.

      2. Paul Jordan

        Apologies, I wasn’t intending to single out Peachy for making excuses for murderers. The debate around this is almost exclusively on our responsibility to find the cheapest provider at a given time and our responsibility to catch energy companies out for overcharging on estimates. The provider that is cheapest won’t be in two months time, and they tie you into long term arrangements that may or may not be cheaper over a given period of time and so on. People on pre-pay meters are charged the highest rate of all. My point is that the debate is all about excusing the people responsible for the murder of 27,000 people a year from responsibility and deflecting it onto ‘consumers’. The Government and the Energy companies and the charities ‘tackling’ Fuel Poverty argue that it is our responsibility as shrewd consumers to find the cheapest deal from month to month. The Energy companies don’t compete, they encourage each other to put the price up. And NO, introducing more competition will not reduce prices in any meaningful way. Once again, sorry if it felt like I was attacking you Peaches, well done for doing what you can, as you will have gathered I feel furious about the murderous hypocrisy of our Government and I don’t distinguish between any of the major parties, they are all driven by a total commitment to a neo-liberal agenda of privatised profits and socialized losses. I’ll have a look at what george is saying about land value tax, though I think this kind of death toll requires a fundamental change of priorities. How much is this latest round of the war on terror (scheduled to last ‘decades’) in Africa going to cost. Are they wanting to safeguard British lives?

      3. Peachy

        Don;t worry about it, I constantly (or so it seems) feel full of fury and impotence at the atrocities which I can see this Government committing. Today I was chatting to a friend who is being harrassed by her council becuase they want ehr out as she has a spare room under bedroom tax and they don’t think she can afford it- she ahs 3 disabled children, lives in an adapted property, and the rooms are absolutely full becuase of her children (all 3 have autism, one has mobility issues leading to wheelchair use and Mum herself has cardiac problems, she and Dad might not have paid employment but they absolutely graft to keep going! Makes me furious. I dojn’t know if you remember the PM visitng a family with a very disabled child and promising her they would not be affected? She was a friend of mine, she isn’t any mroe as she is in mental health crisis due to the very many cuts that ARE affecting them and she has totally cut herself away from everyone and refuses contact; the sooner we rid the country of these horrible Tories the better. If you can look into teh eyes of a mum with a terminally ill child and lie, you can do anything evil.

  5. Paul Jordan

    Everyday I’m hearing stories that just make me want to cry. We have to direct our anger in a positive way and encourage others to do likewise. The good people have them outnumbered, we just have to convince people that we can win if we stick up for each other and fight.

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