Community stepping in where state and big company fail to
This week started with a National Energy Action (NEA) London region conference. On Monday morning I was allocated a 5 minute slots to speak to partners working within fuel justice nationally. I read the below statement and wanted to really emphasise that this crisis is created by greed and being met by austerity.
We are used to being told that austerity needs to exist as people in our community are greedy, be it people needing welfare or housing assistance or solicitors fighting their corner. Many people have been experiencing crisis for over decade due to this misleading austerity and its constant restrictions on the welfare systems we pay into that were designed as a safety net for when we experience crisis in health, family, housing or finanial. For over a decade we have been told these systems are being abused and the legal advice that used to be there to fight our rights in welfare laws have also been exposed to the same slander and told austerity measures must exist within legal aid (the money that covers free legal advice).
There are many people in the community that have supported each other through mutual aid way before the covid-19 pandemic and they will continue to do so way after.
Currently there are cost-of-living conferences springing up across south-west London with lots of people extremely dedicated to supporting others through the crisis. I find the lack of rage suprising. The lack of outrage that we are unable to exist in our homes that we pay rent or mortgages for during cold days as we can not afford to put the heating on.
Monday started with the NEA conference talking about what has been coined the ‘cost-of-living crisis’.
On Tuesday I joined Croydon Carers and Mind in Croydon in a meeting with a Croydon Council officer to discuss the council’s latest planned changes to their council tax support scheme.
Last year our law centre along with other poverty fighting charities responded against the changes to the 2022/23 council tax support scheme -they went ahead. Now a new round of consultation is seeking to introduce non-dependant deductions to disabled households. Non-dependant deductions are deductions made to the support people receive if there are household members over 18 living with them. This is normally children over 18 or people that are cared for by the main claimant or people who care for the main claimant. Shared households of adults are normally jointly liable for bills and therefore a group of adults sharing a home wouldn’t normally have one of the adults as the main claimant and the others in the household be the non-dependants. Non-dependant deductions can cause many problems within a household and can force papents or carers to ask the person causing the non-dependant deduction to leave their home as it impacts them financially.
Thursday was a fuel day, with a fuel sub-group meeting with partners working to improve fuel poverty in Merton including Merton Council. These are regular meetings and a representative was in attendance from Merton Libraries who have established ‘warm hubs’ in Merton Libraries. Warm Hub are spaces open to the public to provide warmth, they certainly should not need to exist but many large building are opening their doors in south-west London to share the heat. Two maps were shared showing all the warm hubs being set up nationally – Find a Warm Welcome Space Today and Spaces — Warm Spaces.
On Thursday evening I visited St Pauls in Croydon which opens its doors on Thursday evenings. It was blooming freezing in my home and too scared to put the heating on I was very pleased to visit St Pauls. There were games being played and hot drinks being made. Someone showed me round and the vision of their warm space was revealed. There is hope that one of the larger rooms would be used for community meals and the large kitchen could be used to cook up a feast. I was told that the space is being used for pilates in the day time so is heated all day and rather than letting the heat go to waste the building has opened its doors to keep the community warm. Warm hubs should 100% not need to exist, but sharing warmth and space is positive.
We all live in silos that many of us struggle to maintain, until these silos are equally available to all of us to thrive in (should we choose to) sharing community spaces seems like a good option.