Category Archives: Benefits

The ‘Cost of (Tories) Living Crises’ continues . . .

It’s been far too long since I wrote anything here.

My health has been abysmal triggered, unfortunately, by the second, follow-on Astrazeneca vaccine I was given, to help me fight against getting Covid., on the 11th June, 2021.

Frankly, I would have been better off not having it!

I would certainly be healthier than I am right now. My face, head, and neck wouldn’t now be permanently scarred, and nor would I have patches of skin on my face that are still numb, 20 months later.

With prices going through the roof over this last year and more, and with me living on a fixed income, that the Tories deem fit for all we disabled claimants to live on (I was awarded Disability Benefits, when it was found that my health will never improve, but will only get worse) but all of us in this position are barely surviving on it! Of course, the Tories don’t give a damn about that, and their attitude seems to be that the more of us who die, the better!

Anyway, with a fixed income that hasn’t kept up with inflation since the Tories took power, it’s been a real struggle to cope with paying for everything that’s necessary, for me to be able to live without agonising pain as, along with a whole list of ailments affected by a broken immune system, I’m also crippled with arthritis, which means that, if I get cold, the pain becomes unbearable. Because of this, I have to keep my home heated, whatever else has to wait.

I live in a 300 year old, stone built property, with walls almost 3 feet thick, and concrete floors, which means that, without the heating being on, it ends up colder indoors than outside which, as you may imagine, just makes everything unbearable for me.

At the beginning of last year, 2022, prices for everything started to rise, but Gas and Oil went through the roof in price!

Unfortunately for me, it was just at the time when I was due to fill up my heating oil tank. I have a 1,000 litre tank, and I always buy the minimum 500 litres when my tank is half full – the cost of this is all that I can afford to put aside each month from my Benefit payments. My tank was at the half-way mark when prices shot up. All the pundits told us that it would go down again, as quickly as it went up, and so I held on, waiting for the price to drop again – but it didn’t!

By the beginning of May, my tank was getting really low, and the price just kept going up. Even with what I’d saved every month, I only had a third of the price that would fill my tank so, despite hating to have any debt, I bit the bullet, and ordered 1.000 litres of oil to be delivered asap., to be paid for in monthly installments. The oil cost me £1,250 – when I first had the boiler and tank put in, it was 8 pence a litre – and now it was £1.25!

Once the oil was in the tank, I used it very sparingly. I became a scrooge. I’d only use it when I had to; when the weather was too cold to bear it; when showering, or washing up – and so, when Christmas came around, according to my Watchman Gauge, which shows how much oil is in the tank, I still had 500 litres! I was so pleased with myself, and felt it was okay to keep my heating on over the worst months of Winter.

Last Tuesday, 31st January, 2023, I woke up to a freezing cold house! I checked the Watchman Gauge, and I still had 300 litres in the tank, so I assumed that the boiler was playing up. A friend had recently given me the phone number of a father and son Oil Boiler Engineering team, and so I rang them, explained my situation, and they turned up bright and early the following day.

After checking the boiler, which they assured me was working fine, they went out to the tank, then came back and told me that the tank was empty! I showed them the Watchman Gauge, then they got something off of the tank, brought it back into my kitchen, where the Watchman is plugged in, then did something to it – it then showed an empty tank! There had obviously been a glitch in the gauge all along but, because I had always topped up the tank at the half-way mark, it didn’t show until now! The engineers fixed the glitch, then sorted out the boiler so that, as soon as I had oil in the tank, it would work properly.

Because I’d got into debt with the previous oil purchase, I hadn’t had the money to put aside to pay for this next lot so, once again, I had to choose to go into debt, so that my home could be warm again. So I went online to the Boilerjuice site again, and ordered 800 litres of oil – this cost me £712. That meant that oil had gone down to 89 pence a litre – much cheaper than last year, but still over double the cost of the year before that! But it meant that, hopefully, I could pay it back quicker than last time, which would mean I could start putting money away again, to pay for my oil without being in debt – that’s if this awful Cost of Tories Living Crises doesn’t get worse, of course!

The earliest delivery time for me was that Friday, 3rd February, so I used an electric ceramic heater, that had been sold to me as very energy efficient, to try to keep the house above freezing, but this ended up costing me £5 a day to run, and it barely kept my home above freezing. So I then wrapped up in layers, and got into bed with extra blankets and a hot watter bottle, and I tried to endure the cold while waiting for the oil to be delivered.

When I woke up on friday morning, it was still freezing cold, but I was happy, as the oil was due sometime that day. After getting something to eat, so I could take my pain meds, I opened my phone, only to see a message from Boilerjuice – the local oil company, that was delivering my oil, had broken down, and they wouldn’t be able to deliver to me until Monday!

I was so upset! The pain I was in every day just got worse, the longer I had to endure it. I was looking at 3 more days of this, before the oil arrived! I know that I’m very fortunate, in that I could pay for my oil over time, which meant that I only had to endure those 6 days in the cold. But, for someone who was crippled with arthritis, it really was an endurance race.

Once again, I had to rely on the electric heater, while I waited for the oil to be delivered. It made me mad that I was adding so much to my already expensive electricity bill, especially as the only hot water I had, was from boiling my electric kettle, which really added to the cost – at that point, the cost of my electric was £1.04 per kWh – but what made it worse, was that the heater barely kept the temperature above freezing!

So I climbed back into bed, wrapped up in my layers, using that hot water bottle again, and adding extra blankets to the bed, in an effort to keep warm. On visiting the bathroom, I felt like it was an exercise in survival!

Every time I entered the bathroom, which was cold enough to freeze my breath, I paraphrased Lawrence Oates, and declaimed: ‘I may be some time!’ after all, you’ve got to find SOMETHING to laugh at in a situation like this – well, either that, or cry!

For some time now, I’ve been looking at alternatives to using oil, with the many offers of grants, that have sprung up like mushrooms after the rain, especially since the Cost of Tories Living Crises started.

I looked at grants for adding insulation to my roof – this was refused, as I still have the original supports and rafters – tree trunks and branches – from the original building of my home. I was told it would be unsafe for the insulators to go up there to add a layer of insulation, despite the fact that there’s already a layer up there – albeit insufficient for the purpose!

My boiler had only been replaced in 2017, and I made sure it was serviced every year, so it was still working efficiently, and any offers to add solar panels was reliant on changing the boiler for a heat pump – but the grant people won’t touch my boiler, as it was installed by – I believe it was called ECO4 – rather than NEST!

Each grant scheme I contacted, had some reason as to why my home isn’t suitable for them to help me become more energy efficient – and this is a house that’s crying out to be made so!

I looked into the new Heat Pump system grants, in order to see whether it could be put in place of the oil tank and boiler, but each company I connect with keeps finding reasons as to why it’s not possible to fit this system into my home.

As it happens, I looked further into the Heat Pump option, as my new Tumble Dryer is run this way, and is super efficient, and cheap to run – so I went down the rabbit hole of research, reviews, and general crazy ideas.

But nothing seems to fit with the home I live in, and all of the information I’ve come across, leads to the conclusion that, even with Solar Panels, the Heat Pump system, in my home, would mean it wouldn’t keep me as warm as the oil, and my boiler, do – and I keep seeing reviews, complaining that this system is actually very expensive, so that the electricity costs, despite the Solar Panels, would be more than I could afford to pay for it to run efficiently!

So, it seems that, for now anyway, and despite the cost of running it, I have to stay a prisoner to the oil companies’ greed!

I doon’t know what will happen in the future, but I know that, for now, my Oil central heating will have to do, and I just hope that either the price goes down, or that, if it does go up, that we eventually get a government that will help everyone keep their Costs of Living at a manageable rate!

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