PEOPLE on low incomes are facing a grim choice between eating and heating this Christmas, says a Highbridge town councillor.
Helen Groves says around 20 people have come to her in the past three weeks facing exactly this dilemma.
Cllr Groves says a combination of rising energy prices, rising food bills, a freeze in the Winter Fuel Payment and changes to Working Tax Credits are hitting the most vulnerable.
She told the Weekly News: “I’m having about seven people a week coming to me saying they are having to choose between heating and eating – I can’t imagine how that must feel.
“This Christmas must be terrifying for lots of people. It’s a very grim period.”
Cllr Groves says so many people have come to her with concerns that she now carries forms about crisis loans, available through the Department of Work and Pensions, so she can hand them out when needed.
She encouraged people to consider a crisis loan if they are genuinely struggling to pay for essentials like food and heating, or to seek help through the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, or to consider the Highbridge foodbank, run by Churches Together and based at the Hope Baptist Church in Church Street.
However, she also warned people against turning to payday money-lenders.
She said: “That’s the worst thing people can do. If you are really struggling, go to your local councillors, your MP or the CAB.”
Burnham and Highbridge MP Tessa Munt said many constituents had raised concerns about their benefits being stopped, but she said: “The one thing that will help is the Universal Credit, coming in April, which will allow people to come in and out of work for temporary jobs, like painting a house, without losing their benefit in the meantime.”