Family Life: The Biggest Casualty of Modern UK Culture By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

 

Barely a day goes by without me hearing some mention of Britishness and British values. There seems to be an acceptance by some that Britain is the envy of the world. I have never been sure what this is based on.

What sums up modern British life? What are the central focuses of our culture? I’d argue money, work and the pursuit of status are what our daily lives and almost all of our time are filled with.  

I visited Holland this summer and could not help but notice how much more relaxed the Dutch way of life seems to be as oppposed to here, where many of us feel our days are about trying to cram in as much as possible. The expectation is to be a conscientious employee, always on time, never be unreliable, strive to climb the career ladder at the same time as being an involved parent, never missing a school play or sports match. keep a perfect house and helping with homework and all manner of other things. But although we might not like to admit it, our value base in this country is about putting money ahead of family life and happiness. 

We are preached to that our status is based upon our (material) assets, people seem to long to tell you how much their car/holiday/phone/home cost, and expect you to be impressed.  

There often appears to be a badge of honour in how many hours you work over what you are contracted; almost as if the company might collapse without us and many of us are forced to waste hours every week sitting in traffic jams or awaiting delayed trains as we commute to jobs far from our homes. Rising costs of living and stagnant wages leave many of us feeling stressed about making ends meet.     

But does it have to be like this? I’d argue not and that the way of life we have here can be changed. Denmark and Norway won the first and second places in this year’s World Happiness Report.  

What’s different about them? Well, both Denmark and Norways’ cultures prioritise experiences over material goods and strive for equality. They have relatively small wealth gaps and friendships are seen as a value. Both nations cherish sharing activities with friends and family.

In the Norwegian language there is even a word for helping each other without being paid;  ‘dugnad’. 

Occasions where everyone contributes their time and skills for the good of the neighbourhood is seen as vital for the good of all. Similarly, Danes might pay extortionate amounts in tax, but this has given them a sense of cohesion; everyone having a stake and everyone getting something back. Unlike here where post compulsory education without being linked to career aspirations is regarded as an extravagance, most Danes take weekly evening classes, all free at the point of receiving them. How many of our lives would be enriched if that were the case here?

One reason people in Denmark have time for enrichment is that they simply do not work the hours we do. The average working week in the UK is now 43.6 hours compared with a European average of 40.3 hours. Danish workers work an average of 26 hours and Norwegians 33.  

One of the sad things about our culture, in my view, is the failure of us as a society to put family life first and the impact it has our children.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last year conducted a study of children across 44 countries. The results made for grim reading, It found Britain’s 15-year-olds are suffering due to ‘pressure at school, feeling fat and drinking too much.’ They were less likely to report ‘good life satisfaction’ than their foreign counterparts.  

73% of girls and 52% of boys in England felt pressured by school work, significantly higher than the average of 51% of girls and 39% of boys across all countries. 

While 50% of girls and 25% of boys in England think they are too fat, higher than the average 43% for girls and 22% for boys across all countries.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers have consistently argued that the mental health of children as young as six is being blighted by exam stress. We have increasing numbers of young people self harming and suffering from anxiety and stress. Although there are many reasons for this, I would argue the culture in this country which judges everyone, regardless of age on their possessions and status is at least partly to blame. Children are judged on their test scores, their school’s place in the league tables, their clothes, their family status, where they live and all manner of other things that should not be important. So, it is no wonder, like British adults, so many children cannot escape the feeling they are not good enough.

What about if Britain had a culture where employers encouraged and helped promote family life and other activities? What about if when meeting people for the first time we asked people about their hobbies and interests instead of where they live and what we do for a living? 


What about if spending time doing community based activities was the norm? What about if we judged each other by our actions and nothing else – not appearance or status or possessions?

I think we would all be much happier. Isn’t that what we should strive for as a culture rather than the best GDP or the most millionaires?  

To read more articles like this by The Avenger please visit our Facebook page 

https://m.facebook.com/theavengeruk/

Mental Health ‘Care’ is Not What you Might Expect By The Masked Avenger Anonymous 

Author Anonymous

* Please note trigger warning ( suicide) *


I’ve been detained under the MHA (Mental Health Act) twice within the last two years. I will describe my own experience of my last admission. 


I have 3 mental health diagnosis, an eating disorder in which I have a lot of fear foods plus an allergy to wheat and gluten, I have PTSD for which I can be triggered and recurrent depressive disorder. The latter means that my mental health fluctuates in waves going from a flat enjoying nothing mode in which I manage to function and maintain normal acts of daily living such as getting up and out of bed, washing and dressing and eating the foods I will eat. 

I have a fear of phones but keep in touch with my 2 friends and 2 of my children by text and I will talk to my GP on the phone.

 
In the low periods despite attempts to change I can’t gather the energy to get out of bed apart from loo trips. I don’t wash or dress, my eating varies and I withdraw from the world and push people away. I spend most of my awake hours crying, and honing down my suicide plan to the final piece as I lose all hope that I’ll ever get better and the emotional pain is so intense I’m unable to cope with it. 

On this occasion my care coordinator had visited me and said that she would be requesting a MHA assessment and left the house. I paced around crying having found my first hospital admission awful and not wanting to go again. I wanted to take my overdose to end my life but thought the MHA crew would appear and save me and I didn’t want to be saved.

Eventually at 8pm, eight hours after my care coordinator had left, I managed to phone the out of hours team to find out what was going on and I was informed that the MHA assessment was booked for 10am the following morning. With this information I believed I had the time needed to end my life and took most of the tablets in my bedside drawer. A mixed overdose of about 8 drugs but including tricyclic drugs I’d previously stored at a time I was prescribed them. 

I lay on the bed fully clothed in clothes I’d been in 24/7 for several days. I didn’t expect to wake up. I remember nothing from that moment to waking on a ward in the medical hospital. 

It transpired that the 2 doctors and AMHP had arrived and not being able to obtain entry asked a neighbour (who has been nasty to me since I moved here so I avoid him) to climb in my bedroom windows and let them in. They couldn’t rouse me so I was taken to hospital where I woke later. It was a couple of months before discovering my neighbour had been in my bedroom and was aware as he gleefully told my daughter about it. 

What happened after…

So the MHA assessment took place in the medical hospital at 2am the morning after I was found and I was detained under section 2. I remained in this hospital for a further 36 hours as there were no beds. My bed was an observation bay right by the nurses station, the lights were on full there all night but I wasn’t allowed to draw the curtains for shade so I could sleep so I didn’t manage to sleep at all in that light. 

I was then transferred to the psychiatric hospital acute ward and shown my room. There I stayed in bed, still fully clothed completely covered in a sheet apart from loo trips for over a week. I cried the whole time and if I slept during the night I don’t remember it. I was aware of every hourly check from staff looking through the bedroom door all day and all night. 

Once or twice people put a plate of food on the bedside table and left it there but the food was all my fear foods as was everything in the canteen so I ate practically nothing during my whole stay. 



After a week and a bit I asked whether it would be possible to be taken home to collect some clothes as I’d been wearing the outfit I’d been detained in day and night since. I asked every day but was told there were no available staff to do so. On day 12 I went to the ward manager’s office and said how long I’d been in my clothes and how I needed things from home. Within an hour a member of staff took me and I collected night clothes, another outfit and toiletries. After this time I started to go into the lounge occasionally but was frightened of 3 ladies on the ward, 2 of which had major anger problems and 1 was extremely unwell and very unpredictable.

One of the ladies with anger issues later told me she didn’t want to be discharged as her partner was violent and she had nowhere else to live so every time discharge was talked about, she’d deliberately kick off meaning her discharge was delayed. She assured me she’d be there months. 

The canteen was terrifying for me. I’m frightened of men and the dining room was shared with the male ward. Many of the men behaved badly making obscene suggestions as well as throwing chairs etc. 

There was no food I could eat anyway so sometimes I’d grab a banana from the fruit bowl and immediately go back to the ladies ward. This satisfied the staff I was eating and the staff in the dining room could tick me off their list. Sometimes I’d take a bite of the banana but usually didn’t and would bury it under paper towels in the bin back on the ward.  
One teenager cut herself so badly during the night she was whisked off with the 2 qualified members of staff to A&E in the adjacent hospital. They never returned so no one could have medication and the following day the consultant was at the main hospital too. The teenager never returned, I’ve no idea if she survived. The things from her room were bagged up and taken away from the ward. 

Apart from a mindfulness session every weekday morning nothing else was on offer. I didn’t go to the sessions due to fear of the men but I have done mindfulness to death in the community and despite hours and hours of practice find it never helps me at all. But for some reason mental health professionals think it cures all psychiatric ills and it’s the only therapy I’ve been offered in the community in my 7 years with them. 



During my weeks on the ward I only ever saw one qualified nurse in the lounge, sitting and talking to patients. She’d bring her laptop in to write up her notes on Rio but would talk to patients alongside this. She was really nice, I’ve heard she’s left now which is sad. The only times I saw qualified staff was at the hatch to the medicine room as they dished out tablets. Apart from those times they stayed in the ward office and we never saw them. I had a named nurse who I never met. 

There were 2 or 3 health care assistants who were visible and about the ward, they were all male but we’re quiet and calm so I was able to cope with them with no problems at all and one in particular was kind. 

I was discharged feeling no better. At home my dining table was covered in piles of thing labelled with who they were to go to, and 3 envelopes containing letter to my children. 

On my discharge notes it said I’d spent the first 10 days asleep in bed!! So all those days I’d cried day and night barely catching snatches of sleep, I was apparently asleep the whole time. 

The thing is no one ever talks to you or asks you anything so they guess and assume and that’s the basis of their paperwork. My diagnosis was even better, it was factitious disorder which totally shocked me once I’d looked it up. Fortunately both the community CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) and my GP said that was total rubbish. CMHT told me that hospital consultant is renowned for his bizarre and incorrect diagnosis. Useful. Not. The only thing that kept me sane there was my weekly phone call from my GP. She’d listen to what was happening, how I was feeling and what was being said and she’d spend 30-45 minutes helping me make sense of it all and help me see things from a different perspective. Ironic really that the only helpful member of staff during my time there was my GP back at my surgery! To me that ward is nothing but a holding cell. 

Therapy would be good as would be some interaction with qualified staff or your named nurses. And it seems when someone is detained and needs a bed, the patient on the ward they deem to be the least risk is immediately discharged, better or not, to make room for the new arrival. Because I was quiet and not disruptive, that was me.

I hope one day that I’ll be offered some therapy from the community team. But I’ve asked for CBT or a psychological assessment several times and the answer has always been no. I want to leave CMHT as I’ve found little helpful and they’re not proactive but my GP encourages me to stay with them because with my recurrent depressive disorder I get low, and when I get low I get very very low and lose all hope. But I have no intention of going back into that hospital again, no help is available there and the diagnosis you come out with is fictitious in itself.

This was written for you by a Masked Avenger. A Masked Avenger could be any one of our regular writers, a group of writers or a guest writer. Written to bring you uninhibited truths that need to be told.

If you would like to submit an article to the Masked Avenger please email us at: the-avenger1@hotmail.com

The Avenger Review: Harry Leslie Smith ‘Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future’

By Kelly Grehan
 

In 2013 Harry Leslie Smith was an unassuming 91 year old Yorkshireman when he wrote an article for the Guardian called ‘This Year I Shall Wear A Poppy For The Last Time.’ This was shared 60,000 times. He was then asked to speak at the Labour Party Conference and wrote two books: ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ and ‘Love Among The Ruins’. He now has a massive twitter following and runs a weekly podcast and speaks at events all over the country.

 

Now age 95 Harry has published his third book, described as a ‘call to arms’ called ‘Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future.’

 

The book starts with Harry reflecting upon his feelings of disappointment and fear of what lay ahead on the night of the Conservative election victory in 2015. It then compares Harry’s miserable experiences growing up in absolute poverty with those in similar positions today.  

 

Throughout, Harry uses facts and statistics to make his point, for example when discussing his brutal experiences of a childhood spent in transit from one set of poor accommodation to another even poorer one he points out that the use of private rental accommodation has risen by 50% since 2002 and that this, along with rent rises has doomed many children to repeating his own fate. He expresses his pain at the fate of old age being to see ‘society gravitate back to the past.’

 

Harry shows great shrewdness in recognising the causes that allowed fascism to spread during his youth and how some many of the same courses have led to a climate where Brexit and Donald Trump have gained power and that these, in turn are a threat to our core belief systems, with ‘compassion and decency’ now at risk.  

 

He (controversially) makes the point that ‘perhaps it is the young today that have wisdom because they are learning to live with the selfishness of the baby boomer generation that helped create neo-liberalism and made it fashionable to disparage the welfare state while enjoying all its benefits.’

 

Speaking of the aims of society, Harry says ‘Our thirst to do good things like find a cure for cancer and our hunger to do harm to others like selling weapons to Saudi Arabia astonish me.’

 

Despite his age, or maybe because of it, Harry has lost none of his enthusiasm in the belief in a better world or the belief that people, especially young people deserve better. He speaks of the injustice that a child’s economic place at birth determines so much of what they are or are not entitled to.  

 

One of the most poignant parts of the book for me are Harry’s recollections of the humiliation which comes with poverty – both for adults and children. The stigma of poverty leads to negative self image and self blame. Reading this I could not help but picture those families reliant on food banks and the message we, as a society are sending those reliant on charity for food, about their worth,  

 

With so few of those from the Second World War now left to share their experiences of life prior to the Welfare State and the NHS, it can sometimes feel like ancient history and that we are safe from the issues that pained that period. But of course, by comparing modern issues- poverty, poor housing, a rise in fascism, no refuge from domestic abuse, unaffordable health care – Harry shows that they battles won in 1945 need fighting once again.  

 

Seeing Harry’s strength in fighting against the ills of the government at his advanced years is truly inspirational. I hope reading this book encourages more people to leave their complacency behind and fight for a better, more just society as Harry and his comrades did in 1945.  

 

The great thing about Harry’s writing is it speaks across generations. I’ll be buying copies for my Grandad and my friend’s 16 year old for Christmas.  

 

Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future by Harry Leslie Smith is available to buy now.

The NHS Staff Are Heroes, So Why Do We Let The Government Treat Them So Badly? By Kelly Grehan

This article was originally written in the Summer by Kelly Grehan
  

Two weeks ago I had a mastectomy. I went into St Thomas Hospital where surgeons removed my (currently) healthy (and frankly beautiful) breasts and reconstructed new ones using tissue from my stomach in what is known as diep flap reconstruction.

 

The reason I chose to do this is I have a defective brca 1 gene. This gene is usually a tumour suppressor, but it’s faulty status in my body gives me an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.

 

Since I told people about my decision to proceed with the operation, thus reducing my cancer chances I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’ve made a brave or heroic decision. Of course, that is not true, I was in the fortunate position to be able to take control of my own health and future. There is a hero in my story of course, in fact there are several: the NHS and their staff.

 

How could I have taken a decision like this without the NHS? From the moment I saw a genetic counsellor at Guy’s Hospital who talked me through the decision to take the diagnostic test to the nurses I saw at the Wound Clinic today I have been treated as an individual with individual needs and have been dealt with by highly trained individuals too numerous to mention, but that include surgeons from two highly trained teams (breast and plastics), anaesthetists, researchers, specialist nurses, physios and other great professionals like porters and health care assistants as well as volunteers supplying services such as the patient cinema at St Thomas’ and helping in the waiting room at clinics.

 

In all of this, despite the nature of the decision I made and the operation meaning I spent a lot of time undressed I never felt I was losing my dignity. I was helped to shower, comforted as I vomited, helped into bed and had my complicated wounds checked every single hour. The empathy of the nursing and other staff left me feeling good about myself.  

 

I also never had to make any decision in which cost had any bearing at all. Money was simply never mentioned at any stage. Compare this to the situation I could have faced were I an American citizen where my decisions would be governed by the level of insurance I had. Where I may be tied to my job because of the insurance package it gave were the procedure to go wrong at any point and revisions needed. Where I might find parts of my treatment were covered and others not and where the threat of reduction in Obama Care might have forced my to make decisions early.

 

Now ironically my hospital room overlooked the Houses of Parliament and I happened to be recovering when the Labour Party amendment to give public sector workers a modest pay increase was voted down by the tories to cheers and cackles. Austerity has left public sector staff getting progressively poorer year on year. At the same time the tories have continued to cut tax for top earners.  

 

The number of billionaires in the country has actually risen, this is in a context where the nursing bursary (a recognition of the work students nurses provide on wards up and down the country and the hours they study making it difficult for them to support themselves) has been scrapped. Rather than scrapping it there is a credible argument student nurses should be paid the minimum (sorry, living) wage for the hours they spend working for the NHS. Indeed I was cared for by several students nurses during my stay in hospital. Looking after sick people is no easy task and they all did brilliantly. It’s an absurd thought that they are reliant on loans and overdrafts to allow them to carry out this work and that after a 12 hours shift in the hospital some will have been off to other jobs just to pay their rent. The nursing courses are tough, and that is right as it is hard work, physically, emotionally and academically. Why on earth would we make it hard to survive financially too?

 

It’s not just student nurses hit by austerity. 17 nurses a day apply for payday loans and there has been a rise in nurses attending food banks. A 40,000 shortage in nurses is, maybe unsurprisingly, predicted,

 

Then there is the treatment of other hospital staff. For example last week porters, security staff and domestics at Barts Health NHS Trust who are actually employed by Serco (but paid for by taxpayers of course) decided on strike action. They are asking for a 30p per hour pay increase. Serco made profits of £82 million last year.  

 

This country is the 6th richest on earth. Why are we happy to treat our health care workers with such disdain? I owe the NHS staff a huge debt of gratitude, as do many others. I am ashamed that this country is not prepared to reward them with recent pay and conditions and I fear in the future many people, in my position will simple to enjoy the excellent treatment I did.  

For more articles like this please visit our Facebook page The Avenger :

https://m.facebook.com/theavengeruk/
 

If only my job were a tin of Heinz Baked Beans: By Lucy Chapman 



If my job were a tin of Heinz baked beans, I would be earning £63,000 a year. I am not.

I always feel a bit inadequate, a bit of a failure for not being able to quite manage from one month to the next. Me and my husband are both teachers so I feel that in a just world, we should be quite comfortable yet this is not the case.

Don’t get me wrong, we usually have a bottle of wine in the cupboard and our children get an occasional magazine or trip to soft play. We’re fine. But if something breaks it stays broken… for months. We have no savings to cover a punctured tyre or a wind-blown fence and we usually have to put petrol or a food shop on to a credit card at the end of the month.

These feeling of failure, along with a deep bitterness that I couldn’t take more time off work to raise my children and with my all too acute awareness that I am nowhere near as poor as the poorest in this country (how on earth do other people manage?) drove me to do some number crunching.

I feel inadequate, but this is in comparison to what has gone before us. That’s all we have to compare with, right? So I looked at what a teacher’s salary would have been in 1995, for someone with the same number of years experience as me. I was just starting secondary school myself in 1995. I found out that they would earn £28,329. Lovely.

So to understand what sort of life I’d have been having were I born 20 years earlier, I did a quick Zoopla check to see how much I’d have paid for my house back then. The answer: £43,000. In that 20 years, my house has increased by a staggering 215%. I bought this house, a 45 minute drive from where I actually wanted to live, because it was cheap.

If a teachers salary had increased at the same rate, I’d be on over £89,000 today. I am not. £89,000 is considerably more than both mine and my husband’s salaries combined. No wonder one wage isn’t enough to support the whole family any more!

But house prices, deposits and mortgage repayments are just one aspect of living. What about fuel costs and food?

In 1995 the average domestic fuel bill was £90. Today it’s £125. 140% of what it was. If my job was fuel, I’d currently be on £39,500. I am not.

A tin of Heinz baked beans in 1996 cost 33p (please excuse the inconsistency, 1995 baked beans data is difficult to find!) whereas at 75p today, they’ve more than doubled in price.

If my value as a teacher doubled like a tin of beans, I would be earning £56,000 – £63,500 a year. Maybe then I could fix my leaking washing machine or stop worrying about that knocking noise my car makes. I could maybe even save a little money, and pay for my children’s university fees. But that’s another story, for another day.

So what’s my point? That teachers should be earning over £63,500? No, not really but that something has to give. We cannot blame parents for not staying at home when they can’t afford to; we cannot be blaming benefit claimants who work a 40 hour week on minimum wage because that wage doesn’t cover their bills; we can’t blame people living off welfare who’ve chosen to raise their own children but who can no longer manage on a single wage. We can not, must not, will not allow our government; the people voted in to represent us and be our voice, to use that voice to accuse poor people of bad money management. People want to be able to earn an honest living and with that hard earned cash be able to put a roof over their family’s head, cover the fuel bills and buy a tin of beans (not caviar) to put on their toast.

In 1995/96 we wouldn’t have dreamed of this struggle. Remember: things could only get better…

For more articles like this please visit our Facebook page The Avenger:

https://m.facebook.com/theavengeruk/

Blood On Our Hands? London Hosts World’s Biggest Arms Fair by Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

 

The word ‘fair’ might conjure up images of village greens, tombolas, cake sales and arts and crafts or maybe thrill seeking rides, but in London this week an altogether different fair has come to town: one in which 1,600 exhibitors from 54 countries display their weaponary to prospective buyers.  

 

Representatives of countries with concerning human rights records including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates have been invited. The bi-annual event is one reason for the UK is the second biggest arms dealer in the world.  

 

Whilst there has been condemnation of this from protest groups International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has defended Britain’s arms export dealing claiming that if countries were unable to acquire the weapons they wanted legally there would be an eruption of ‘unregulated’ sales. Which reminds me of the line trotted out by drug dealers, that if they did not sell addicts drugs someone without their diligence would.  

 

There has been particular pressure from campaigners for Britain to end its arms trading with Saudi Arabia, because of its well documented history of repression and human rights abuses. However the government has paid no attention and has continued to regard Saudi Arabia as a priority market for UK arms sales. 

The UK has approved £3.8bn of arms licences to Saudi Arabia, the leader of a multinational coalition in Yemen, since the conflict escalated in March 2015. 

This is fuelling the civil war in Yemen, where Saudi forces are supporting the government in its struggle against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. It is very likely that selling arms to a country in conflict will make the conflict more deadly and last longer, indeed, there is no sign that the Saudi-led air bombardment, which has been going on for two years, will decisively break the military stalemate. 

More than 10,000 people have been killed and three million displaced already with the coalition’s air and naval blockade driving millions more to the brink of famine and sparking the world’s largest ongoing cholera outbreak. Why do we not see more headlines about this? Maybe because the unpalatable truth is we are complicit in the indescribable suffering of the Yemeni people.  

 

The truth is, for all our talk about us being a humanitarian nation, by holding the world’s biggest arms fair and trading with countries we know to be engaging in immoral warfare categorically, we are a country who prioritise arms sales and profit over human rights. As a taxpayer and British citizen I just do not see how anyone can feel proud of our approach to arms sales and knowing what we are involved in in Yemen, but also in other countries.

With every weapon we have been involved in being used against an innocent person or or destroying the homes and cities of innocent people with have blood on our hands.

 

To read more articles like this please like The Avenger facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/theavengeruk/
 

 

Lucy Chapman: The Disgusting Truth about Fuel Poverty

•People can be too poor to put their heating on and not be classified as living in ‘Fuel Poverty’

•Price hikes which cause more people to struggle with fuel costs do not cause more people to be classified as living in ‘Fuel Poverty’

•Fuel Poverty unjustly affects households with children and is steadily increasing for the over 75s.

So, last month we heard that British Gas are to increase their electricity costs by 12.5% from September, just as the weather gets cooler, nights longer and the nation reaches out to put ‘just one bar’ on their electric fire. Thanks, British Gas! Couldn’t have left it till spring to start increasing your £5million profit could you?

Looking at Fuel Poverty in Britain, I am appalled but not surprised to read that fuel poverty affects more single parents with dependent children than any other group. That’s right, we probably all knew it, but its official; it is children who are living with the heating off, cold showers and less hot meals more often than anyone else.

You may have opinions about the need for people to work their way out of poverty, perhaps you think if they didn’t try hard at school or graft in the work place then they should live with the consequences. But there isn’t a child on this earth that has ‘earnt’ their poverty.

So, to the real filth of fuel poverty

Government documentation explains how Fuel Poverty is calculated:

Fuel poverty in England is measured using the Low Income High Costs (LIHC) indicator. Under the LIHC indicator, a household is considered to be fuel poor if:

• they have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level).

• were they to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.

This new definition of the term ‘fuel poor’ was reported by The Independent in December 2013 to have instantly lifted 800,000 people out of fuel poverty overnight! Note, they are no better off or more able to pay their gas bill, but a definition change has helped solve the problem to the tune of thousands.

What does this mean?

If a household is extremely poor (below the poverty line) they won’t be counted as ‘fuel poor’ unless their gas and electricity consumption is above average. So when you read a headline stating that the government are reducing the fuel poverty gap, don’t be fooled; there are thousands of men, women and children living in poverty, unable to do a wash-load with the confidence that their pre-pay meter won’t run out mid cycle who aren’t being counted in the stats, simply because their gas and electricity bill is considered ‘average’ or below average in relation to all UK households of all incomes. And let’s face it, if you were totally broke, you would do your absolute best to keep your gas and electricity bills as low as possible wouldn’t you?

How will British Gas’ 12.5% rise in electricity costs affect the numbers of people suffering from ‘fuel poverty’?

Not at all! Well that’s great. Increase your prices all you like if that’s the case, ol’ BG! £5million a year profit does sound a bit on the low side and somebody somewhere probably needs a new yacht…

“The fuel poverty indicator is a relative measure, as it compares households to national income thresholds and national median energy costs. A change in income will only have an impact on fuel poor households if they see relatively larger income changes (increase or decrease) than the overall population; the same is true for household energy costs.”

(Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report, 2017. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Because you have to have above average fuel consumption to be counted in the ‘fuel poor’ data, an increase to prices of any magnitude, will not affect the government statistics because they will have simply created a new ‘average’.
So, in conclusion: if you’re so poor that you can’t cook your kids a hot meal or dry their clothes affectively in winter but you keep your gas and electricity consumption down below the UK average, you’re not in fuel poverty, and if fuel prices go up resulting in more people finding they’re unable to afford a warm shower every day, there are actually no more ‘fuel poor’ people in Britain.
In June the Conservatives announced their plans to cut the fuel allowance to all but the poorest pensioners. The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnel published analysis suggesting the lives of 4,000 pensioners could be at risk as a result…

Pay Raises in Britain

1% (not guaranteed) – Teachers

1% – Nurses

1.5% – Soldiers

2% – Firefighters

7.3% – Multi-million pound Energy Company


Thanks for your fuel price cap promise, Theresa May. People voted to keep ordinary people’s lives just this side of manageable yet children are being tipped over the edge on your watch and you’ll not even count them in your numbers. #proudtobebritish

There is a whole host of other issues here too; far too many to do justice to within my 800 words: The highest proportion of ‘fuel poor’ households are privately rented; the highest proportion of people forced to use exploitative pre-payment meters are also in privately rented homes; pre-payment meters cost the customer up to £300 per year more than other customers.

Fuel poverty has been rising for people over 75 since 2013.

Fuel poverty is more prevalent in the homes of people of ethnic minority

Most recent data shows over 1.03 million households with one or more children are ‘fuel poor’

…To cover the whole shameful topic, I’d need another 10,000 words.