Metin Ali from Direct Community Support on how a new local initiative aims to help vulnerable families this winter
Heating or eating? Is this even a choice that has to be made? Unfortunately for some this is a reality and a very grim choice.
You would think that in 2021, in a first-world United Kingdom and world-leading metropolitan city such as London, residents of the leafy borough of Enfield wouldn’t be suffering from this reality. Unfortunately, they are, and fuel poverty has never been as widespread, with so many contributing factors.
The fuel poverty strategy published by Enfield Council a few years ago highlighted that in 2013 nearly 13,000 households in the borough couldn’t afford to heat their homes to adequate levels, while the Enfield Poverty and Inequality Commission report published last year revealed the borough had risen to become the ninth-most deprived in London, with 27% of households in poverty after housing costs and one-in-three children living in poverty.
Fast forward to winter 2021; soaring utility prices, record gas prices, the collapse of several small energy companies, inflation at more than 3%, supply shortages, plus of course the pandemic, are all exacerbating an already disturbing reality. It has also expanded the problem into households that hitherto would never have thought they would face a choice over whether to eat or heat.
As a community we can help. Through Direct Community Support, our new community interest company, we have been supporting Enfield residents and families with weekly food support parcels over the last year. It was initially by Direct Eco Solutions Ltd, our local environmental solutions company, as part of our corporate social responsibility to the local community. Myself and fellow director Okan Vasif have been supporting more than 40 families and 100 people with weekly food support parcels during the pandemic.
As you can imagine, an undertaking of this size couldn’t be organised, funded and executed without support, and that support came in many forms. Donations of food and monetary support from local residents, volunteers to help with deliveries weekly on Saturdays (Valentina from TeddyTastic; Christina from Utility Warehouse; Vince from DigIt Solutions; Nas and Vic from Organised Chaos UK; Nese, Sue and Rikki from Utility Warehouse; to name but a few), plus fundraising (DJ Marcus Anthony, Lawrence from Thors Trees and BNI Vision Enfield).
We were even donated the use of a building during lockdown as a base of operations (Hale and Colin from Fun Junction) and fresh food support from Soner and the team at Edible London.
This collective effort demonstrated the power of a local grassroots organisation being supported by local people and businesses and the massive effect it can have on serious social issues. The focus now is to help alleviate some of the burdens of fuel poverty for local residents.
With the support of one of our suppliers, Endo Enterprises, plus local plumbers, Direct Community Support will be embarking on a winter project from November until the end of February that will see the most vulnerable families receiving an energy efficiency boost for their home boiler systems – making the systems run 15-20% more efficiently.
This will help offset some of the price increases we are seeing and means the systems can be run on lower settings, while maintaining higher temperatures, reducing running costs and improving the lifespan of the boiler. If you would like to find out more about this scheme, refer a family, or are a local plumber that would like to donate some of your time and skill to help with this initiative, do please get in touch.