The BBC carries news of the demise of another energy supplier. Perhaps the proper term should be re-seller, for the insolvent firms have been locked into contracts where they had to buy the energy at a price far higher than at which they could sell it.
Customers who have lost money through the financial collapses will be protected, but there promises to be little protection for the many ordinary people who will be unable to pay the higher energy prices and will sit cold in their houses.
The thought of someone sitting cold in their house always bring memories of the lady in the little village sub-post office. Go in the door of the shop with its bare shelves to buy a solitary postage stamp and she would appear through a doorway – an old green cardigan wrapped around her and a hot water bottle clutched to her chest. The lady and her elderly mother had sunk into a genteel poverty.
The old always suffer the most in cold winters.
In part, it is because that older people are generally less physically able to cope. In part, perhaps, it is also a matter of fear. If your only means of support is your weekly pension, then you will be afraid of incurring any debt. If anything goes wrong, you will have nothing with which to pay, so you carry on setting a bit aside each week, when you can, and you carry on trying to make sure you do not touch your savings, particularly your savings for your funeral. Even when it becomes very cold, you try not to spend more than you had planned, even if that means extra clothes and filling hot water bottles, even if it means you have no comfort at your own fireside.
It seems odd that a government that can find billions for companies during the pandemic can offer no guarantee that older people will not be cold this winter.
The people who will suffer most, as ever, will be those who have tried to be responsible. The people who worked hard and stewarded carefully what they had, and made the money go around as best as they could, are often the very people who are just above the very low thresholds for any assistance. Like the sub-postmistress fifty years ago, they will be left to do their best to get by.
All those lessons about working and saving and budgeting can sometimes seem pointless.