Lives on the line as poverty bites

Sunday, 4 February 2024 22:03

By Martyn Smith, Local Democracy Reporter

Poverty is biting harder than ever in Dudley where rising bills could cost lives.

That is the harsh reality for service users at Cadrene Supported Living on Wolverhampton Street where tenants were shocked to learn Dudley Council is planning rent rises and introducing additional service charges for communal areas.

Workers at Cadrene witness hardship every day where people on low incomes face the choice of eating or heating. Volunteer Dannet Braham said:

“There are quite a few people who have got dementia, ones who can’t get out, husbands caring for their wives, some are on their own. A lot of the older generation are paying their bills so they do without, some are not turning their heating on.

“I have just come from a man who doesn’t put his electricity on at all, he just pays the standing charge, he is wrapped up in a blanket right now – he is 83 or 84.

“They are not eating properly so are buying the cheapest food they can. There are quite a few that are depressed and we really have to talk them through – they don’t want to carry on and would rather be dead.”

Staff at the centre say they are seeing the impact of rising costs with more family breakdowns and people becoming homeless while foodbanks receiving less donated produce.

One service user at the centre, a 66-year-old former security guard who did not wish to be identified because he claims he suffers harassment in his community, was willing to share his story. The council tenant lives in Russells Hall Road and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016. He said:

“The place where I am has got mould, I find it strange they can come and slap on whatever rent they want to, I can’t afford it.

“Being depressed is going to make me more ill – people come and look at it but they haven’t done anything, the place is damp and with my illness it has got to be warm.”

When he learned how much more cash he may have to find to pay higher bills the tenant was visibly shocked. He added: “I can’t afford it, I’ll have to cut back on loads of stuff, probably food because I need to keep warm but it’s no good warming a place with mould in there – it’s sad.

“It makes me feel terrible, we are not in the stone age, this is Britain we are living in. I have worked all my life – it’s not my fault I’m ill, I don’t think they understand.

“I am frightened by the future, some of them making the decisions, let them take a pay cut – put themselves in my situation and see what it’s like.”

Dudley’s director of housing, Kathy Jones faced questions on the planned rises at a recent scrutiny meeting. She said:

“I have not come across a housing provider that is not applying the full rent increase that is allowed, to be able to deliver services we have to ensure we have got the budget to do that.

“We are a low rent authority but we cannot not charge for services we are providing.”  

She added the council is looking into discretionary payments and transition funding to help people in need to pay bigger bills.


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