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Bishop Philip North picbanner.png
Diocese of Blackburn
Bishop Philip North pic.png
Diocese of Blackburn
World News

Turn fear into positive action to avert a 'Winter of destitution' says Bishop of Burnley

by Donna Birrell

The Bishop of Burnley says he fears a "Winter of destitution" unless action is taken to mitigate the effects of the energy price cap increase. 

The new price cap is due to be announced on Friday and it's set to push already struggling households into further difficulty.

Rt Rev Philip North tells Premier he would like to see Christians and churches live out Jesus' message of hope and respond with positive action to help their communities at this time :  

"There's a real atmosphere of fear as people look to the winter. There's a kind of built-in culture of low pay and it's been commonplace for people to have to choose between food and fuel. I suspect this year, many won't be able to choose either. It really is causing a great deal of nervousness on the streets of many post-industrial towns.

"There's nothing worse than not being able to feed your own children or not being able to heat your own house. So once we see one, then two energy price cap increases, I really fear for what people will be facing in the later parts of the Winter. It's going to be a Winter of destitution for many people."

It's feared the average household energy bill will hit £3,717 a-year in October, before rising to £4,567 in January 2023 and £5,816 in April.

Last week NHS leaders said the UK could face a 'humanitarian crisis' unless action is taken to protect people from the increases. 

Bishop Philip agrees:  "I would use such strong words. 

"I think we'll see malnutrition and hypothermia unless there is really strong coherence and partnership action with government, local authorities, churches, the voluntary sector all really working together. Unless we see that I think we could see terrible suffering in the fifth largest economy in the world. It's an unconscionable situation.

"Churches stand ready in this crisis. We have spaces that we can open up as warm spaces, we run activities that people can come to and we run a network of food banks and food pantries and so on. 
"There's a great deal we can offer. 

"But of course, the problem is that churches too are facing fuel and food increases and those who donate are also feeling a cost of living squeeze. So what's needed to support our churches is a simple, locally administered small grant scheme. Because with small amounts of money, churches and voluntary sector groups can achieve a huge amount. 

"Then I can see really coherent action amongst the churches to assist people through this crisis. But we do need support in doing that and it needs to be quick and it needs to be simple to access.

"'Don't be afraid' is the most repeated command in the Gospel. The Gospel tells us not to be afraid. That fear is rooted in our trust in Jesus Christ, who offers us absolutely sure and firm hope of salvation. 
"We don't need to be afraid because we absolutely know our future is safe in Jesus's hands.

"So because we know that in the long term existential we don't need to be afraid, let's help people not to be afraid today. As we meet the needs, as we listen to the plight of those going through crisis, as we do what we can, then that's beautiful future hope. It needs to be lived out in radical contemporary action."

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nadhim Zahawi, said: "We know that people are struggling with rising energy prices which is why we have taken action with support over the winter months to help ease the pressure on household budgets.

"This £400 off energy bills is part of our £37 billion of help for households, including 8 million of the most vulnerable households receiving £1,200 of direct support to help with the cost of living.

"We know there are tough times ahead and we will continue to do everything in our power to help people."


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