‘I do not know how I’m going to survive’: Campaigners head to Number 10 to demand help in mini-budget
Ahead of the mini-budget, those already suffering from the energy bills crisis headed to Number 10, where they spoke about the impact of the cost of living crisis and demanded more help for the vulnerable
Single mum Merve Kalgidim said the energy price crisis is already causing her anxiety and depression. Image: Eliza Pitkin/Big Issue
“I do not know how I am going to survive and keep afloat with the increase in energy prices,” said Merve Kalgidim, standing outside the gates of Downing Street with a pushchair.
“It’s caused me depression, stress, anxiety, and it’s just really hard. People who are not in our position don’t realise how much of an effect it’s going to have on our lives.”
Kalgidim, a 33-year-old single mum from Brighton, along with her three-year-old son Kingsley, have just been to the door of Number 10 to demand its new resident Liz Truss takes urgent action to help people like them.
They handed in petitions and letters signed by over 400,000 people and organised by groups including petitions site 38 Degrees, Save the Children, Turn2Us, and Big Issue, a core member of the alliance.
The idea was to call on the government to help the most vulnerable in Friday’s mini-budget.
Kalgidim wanted to see an increase to universal credit, or an energy price cap for people on benefits – with the current help on offer not getting close to her needs.
“People are going to have to choose between buying clothes for their children or paying an energy bill, or buying food for their children or paying an energy bill,” she said.
“I know where I stand with that – my son will always come first. If that means having to get into debt with energy suppliers, then I’ll have to get into debt with energy suppliers.”
Along with Kalgidim, Amrit Dhaliwal also went to the door of Downing Street to make her voice heard.
“I’m registered blind but I also have a condition called connective tissue disorder which affects my ability to regulate my body temperature,” she said.
“From October to February I will have to have the heating on all day every day – that’s really going to affect my energy bill.”
Her last bill was £200, which she predicted doubling even with the current energy cap. “I’ll be honest, I was concerned before but I am panicking now, because I’m already having to put the heating on,” she said.
Dhaliwal, 49, who volunteers with Leonard Cheshire, wanted to see a discounted energy tariff for disabled people, and for benefits to go up immediately in line with inflation.
“Fingers crossed that we are going to be heard. The changes they’ve made so far, they’re looking at society as a whole, but they need to recognise that there’s sections of society that are more vulnerable,” she said.
The petitions include one backing Gordon Brown and the Big Issue’s demand for an emergency budget to boost universal credit.
Brown said: “Until those who face poverty are given proper protection thousands upon thousands of British people will continue to demand urgent action to end the cost of living crisis and I want to thank the 155,000 plus who have signed a petition calling for parliament to act immediately.”
While Truss had already announced an energy price cap “freeze”, Friday’s mini-budget was preceded by hints that the government will scrap a rise in corporation tax and remove the limit on bankers’ bonuses – but little detail on whether any support would be coming for society’s most vulnerable.
The petition, and collaboration between all the groups involved, meant it should be harder for Truss to ignore those voices, said Veronica Hawking, head of campaigns at 38 Degrees.
“We’re all on the same page, we’re all collecting petitions, we’re all campaigning day in day out on this, so we feel if we bring our voices together with one big petition hand in, it makes it a lot harder for that message to be ignored.”
“It’s not about party politics at all – 404,790 people I think have signed that petition. We know they’re people from all different walks of life, and political persuasions.
“But they’re all urgently calling for something more to be done, and really urging the chancellor and the prime minister to use tomorrow’s emergency mini-budget to do something to make a real change to help people this coming winter.”
Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Christmas. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Christmas.