What if you were in social isolation every day?

by | Apr 6, 2020 | advice, affordable warmth, fuel poverty

‘Self-isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ have become buzzwords. Yet, for the 9 million people in the UK feeling often or always lonely, social isolation is not a pandemic-induced rarity, but an everyday reality (see the Red Cross’ Trapped in a Bubble report).

As a charity helping people stay warm and healthy at home, we meet clients every day who have become socially isolated; holed-up in their home through a range of physical, emotional and mental conditions. These confines come at a cost.

The cost of isolation

If you are self-isolating currently; how many times have you boiled the kettle? If you’re anything like me it’s quite a lot! Do you have to consider if you really need that extra cup of tea? Maybe not. But for the many people on low incomes, the cost of the extra electricity makes this a real choice.

Are you putting your heating on at times when you’d normally be at work? Perhaps you’ve considered it but opted against paying the extra, especially if the sun is out. If someone is house bound and socially isolated, there can be little respite from the creeping chill – often exacerbating health conditions such as poor circulation, neurological disorders and arthritis. For some people, putting the heating on isn’t merely a switch of a button; it is a choice between heating and eating.

Living in this way can easily lead to money worries. Energy companies can be difficult to get hold of and confidence can deteriorate due to social isolation. This is common as social isolation is associated with loneliness and depression (Age UK has some excellent resources to help). It comes at a cost to people to heat and run the home when they could or would have been out if they weren’t so isolated.

Many of us are now in the same boat and seeing how difficult it is to keep financially sound and warm in our home — especially those of us whose income is reduced.

Who has been struggling with this before?

Unsurprisingly, socially isolated clients are not always on top of their bills. One gentleman was housebound, having lost most of his sight. He became reliant on others to go to the shop and carry out any activity outside his own home. He could no longer see his bills or know what he was paying for his energy. On one level, it was the least of his worries. But with restricted finances, he couldn’t pay to go out and do as much as he would like. Our advocate saved him over £600 a year by switching him to another tariff and also ensured he was in receipt of the £140 Warm Home Discount and registered for the Priority Service Register (see our blog for both these benefits What help can my energy provider do to help during the coronavirus pandemic?).

Individuals must be proactive to apply for these deals, which is not always possible for everyone. Those experiencing social isolation often don’t have people around that they are comfortable asking for help.

How to help

We work with organisations to reach the most isolated. But you too can help by spreading the word. If you are delivering a food parcel or the paper to someone who is isolated, mention Keep Herefordshire Warm to them, jot down our number or even printout of this blog post?

In the current ‘lockdown’ climate we can offer energy bill and debt advice both over the phone and by email, as well as doing a price comparison on your energy bills and talking you through a tariff switch. If something doesn’t seem quite right but you are struggling to express yourself, we can help find the best deal for you and negotiate with energy providers.

Fancy comparing deals right now? Click here to check what you could save right away. Top tip: it’s always good to have your bill to hand when doing a comparison.