Redditch family with disabled son 'worried for future' as energy costs soar

  • Rosie Dowsing reports on what the energy crisis means for one Worcestershire family.

A family from Worcestershire with a disabled son say they are 'concerned for the future' as they struggle to power certain appliances needed to simply keep their son alive.

Keith Butler and Helen Castanheira from Redditch adopted their son Geordie when he was 17 months old.

The 22-year-old has CHARGE syndrome, a complex genetic condition, and he is deaf, partially-sighted and autistic.

Geordie requires feeding through a tube, which is on charge for 8-10 hours a day. His bed is electric so it can be raised to get him in and out.

Helen says she is so concerned about the cost of her energy bills that she cannot bare to look at price changes from her energy company.

"I go on and I pay the bills, but I don't even really want to see the reality of it. It's hard enough as it is".

Helen and Keith are grateful that their son Geordie can spend his days at Basecamp, run by Sense in Selly Oak, Birmingham. It means they do not have to heat the home when he is not there.

Keith said: "You take into account the machine needs to be on charge eight, ten hours a day, and he has an electric bed."

"Lighting has to be on evening in the brightest days. It does make me worried for the future. For his future, not for mine, but for his future".

Keith added he avoids going home during the day while Geordie is at Basecamp, to keep his energy bills lower.

Alongside having to ration their heating and appliances, they even go without a dishwasher, as it is the only electrical appliance that is not directly needed for their son's health.

It is a luxury they say they miss, because washing everything by hand is a harder task after busy days caring for Geordie.

Pictured is Geordie and Dad Keith.

Keith and Helen are calling for a social energy tariff, along with the charities Age UK and Sense, to help those who most need to stay warm and power their homes.

Tom Marsland, from Sense, said the social energy tariff would provide discounted energy for those who need it most.

He added: "It would cover people using specialist equipment having to charge wheelchairs, using feed tubes, oxygen canisters etc. Things that really can't be cut down on and if they are cut down on could be really detrimental and serious".

Keith says as a pensioner and a carer, it is a double-edged sword. He falls into two social groups that have been identified as most needing to power their homes for health reasons.

A recent report from Age UK into fuel poverty found:

  • 29% of over sixties living on an income of less than £20,000 say their home is too cold most or all of the time.

  • 49% were worried about the impact of energy bills on their health.

  • 59% were worried about their ability to heat their home.

In a statement responding to calls for a social energy tariff a Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said:

"A social tariff is about protecting the vulnerable and that's exactly what we are doing by providing significant financial support for those who need it most".

"This includes £900 cost-of-living pavements, £150 to those on eligible disability benefits, plus a further £150 Warm Home Discount. Our Energy Price Guarantee also remains in place until April 2024".

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