Millions pushed into poverty in energy crisis, warns plumber who helps families for free

3 February 2022, 09:54 | Updated: 3 February 2022, 11:25

James Anderson - Cost of Living

By Sarah Collins

A plumber who spent £57,000 helping more than 10,000 vulnerable families fix their heating and plumbing for free says the energy crisis will push millions into poverty.

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James Anderson from Lancashire set up Depher CIC as an emergency plumbing and heating repair charity in 2017 to support elderly, vulnerable people but he’s now expanded to help families after seeing more and more customers struggle with rising energy costs.

He’s helping people across the country with food parcels and heating repairs. He’s raising money to try and meet a surge in demand for help.

“Last week we had 137 families contact us for food, electric and gas alone, I’ve just had a gentleman rung me who has seen a 72% rise in his fuel bills already and that’s before April gets here,” he said.

“I ordered a food parcel for a family in Liverpool; mum, dad and two children and there was nothing in the cupboards, they were bare.”

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LBC spent time with James ahead of an announcement by the energy regulator Ofgem on how much bills for around 22 million households can rise from the beginning of April. It’s expected the cap will rise by 50%.

Millions currently have their energy bills capped at £1,277 for an average household. It’s believed that this could rise to around £1,900 from April 1 when the new price cap comes into force.

James says the people he sees have already seen a big jump in their gas and electric bills on top of rising food prices.

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He said the situation is already desperate.

“Two weeks ago, I went to a family in Wakefield, they had heating, no hot water and no food and a child said to me, 'I thought I was going to die',” he said.

“No child should think that, no child should think they’re going to die because their parents can’t feed them, that’s the biggest disgrace of this country.”

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Calls have intensified in recent weeks for the Government to step in to help struggling households.

“Getting rid of VAT on energy bills wouldn’t be enough to stop the poverty that’s coming,” he said.

“They need to cap the rise at 10% and get rid of VAT at the same time, even if it’s only just for a year cut VAT and give people a chance.

“I’ve spoken to families, and they’ve told me they’ve been to the foodbank, and they’ve contacted the supplier, and they’re at a point where any extra money they did have is going on the rising cost of living, these are working families and they have nothing.

“The government have to do something, it’ll get to the point where the poor aren’t getting poor, they’re dying.”