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Friday, September 19, 2008

The reality of fuel poverty

This outstanding post on the Dom Care Dragon blog underlines the reality of fuel poverty for many elderly people and the skewed values that still exist in our society:

She is not an easy woman, but then, she is not having the retirement she anticipated. Her husband has Parkinsons and their life revolves around caring for him, day hospital and carers, incontinence sheets and hospital beds. She is grieving the life she didn't get and the husband who is gone, replaced by a confused and sometimes aggressive man. I comment on the view and she turns blank eyes to the windows. "We thought we would be here for life" she says "We are putting it on the market this Month, we can't afford the fuel bills and the running costs"

He is a proud man, he fought in the War and he and his wife brought up a family in this tiny cottage. He got up at dawn or before each day and worked as a farm hand, walking the five miles to and from work. They never had a car or foreign holidays, they didn't have holidays at all but they had a simple life where you lived within your means and that was good enough for them. He is ninety now, his skin is paper thin, marked with purple stains where the steroids he takes for his breathing have thinned his blood. He lives in one room, the single bed in the corner with the family pictures still on the wall above it, a reminder that this used to be an ordinary sitting room. A portable gas heater is on constantly in front of the gaping fireplace - he doesn't have an open fire any more, he cant keep it in all day. The house has central heating but he doesn't switch it on, he can't there is no oil in the tank.

Twenty five thousand older people will die this Winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly. You know it, I know it, the Government know it, and yet it will still happen. I don't believe that help to insulate lofts will solve this problem, what's more, I think that the Energy Companies will put up their prices to cover the cost of providing it. There is real poverty going on in your street, in your village but the people who are dying cannot go on strike. It appears that they are expendable in our Society. Yesterday a friend of mine was in London and had a wander around Harrods. She saw a handbag on sale for £19,000. Something is very, very wrong with our values.
The most famous verse in Robert Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen” is:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

I would like to suggest my own, more up-to-date variation of this verse to reflect Brown’s Britain

They shall grow not Cold, as we that are left grow Cold:
Poverty shall not weary them, nor society condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
Will anyone care about them?
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