The libraries and museums of Britain are getting ready to open their doors to those who cannot afford to heat their homes during the winter.
Public buildings are expected to see an increase in use during the winter months, so ministers are being urged to provide emergency new funding.
The structures are part of a larger nationwide network that will offer safe, warm refuge, with the goal of reducing the number of deaths attributable to the cold winter months.
With businesses across the country facing enormous increases in energy bills, it is imperative that they receive assistance to ensure that essential public buildings can continue operations. One group of care homes reported to the Observer that their annual energy costs have increased from £1.5 million to £7.7 million.
Museums are expected to help out during this time of crisis, but many of them will be unable to affordably heat their facilities, according to Alistair Brown, policy manager at the Museums Association, which speaks for the museum industry.
The severity of the crisis is becoming more widely understood, and it would be a shame to have to shorten the hours that museums are open.
In a statement released last week, Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum in Widnes, Cheshire, reported that the cost to renew its annual gas contract had increased from £9,700 to £54,362.
“Central government should provide councils with additional funding this winter to meet rising energy costs,” said Isobel Hunter, CEO of Libraries Connected, which represents the public library sector. This would help ensure libraries stay open as vital warm refuges for their communities during the cold winter months.
Paul Drumm, of GLL, the charitable social enterprise that runs the libraries in Greenwich in south-east London, said that the borough’s libraries had spent $28,000 on new seats and other furniture in anticipation of the influx of winter visitors.
“We are acutely aware of the huge impact that the energy crisis will have on many living in the local community,” he said. For those who can’t afford to heat their homes, we will be advertising our libraries as “warm spaces.”
In the meantime, Care England, which represents 4,500 care services, reported that operators were facing up to 500% increases in energy costs, prompting some to consider reducing the number of elderly people they take from hospital wards or closing their care homes altogether.
Without swift government intervention, many healthcare facilities across the country may be forced to close this winter. Professor Martin Green, the head of Care England, predicted that “some providers just won’t be able to go on – they will collapse.” There is no government rebate for the elderly living in care facilities, and energy costs are not capped.
Based on research conducted by the consultancy BoxPower, annual energy costs for nursing homes averaged £700 per bed. However, this month homeowners are being quoted the equivalent of £4,027 per bed to purchase energy from October onward. Within a year, the cost of energy per bed has increased by about 443%.
With energy costs increasing by £100,000 per day, sheltered housing provider Brunelcare, which houses 1,400 people in Bristol and Somerset, was forced this month to sign a new annual energy contract worth £7.7m. Prior to last year, the nonprofit organization’s annual contributions averaged about £1.5 million.
Brunelcare CEO Oona Goldsworthy said, “We’re in an absolutely impossible situation.” “I’ve been through Covid, so I know what it’s like to have a rough time in your life. Once again, we are being completely forgotten.
A government spokesperson stated that the government had released an extra £3.7bn to local governments for use in adult social care. The rising cost of energy is something no single government can stop, but the government will keep helping businesses like nursing homes through the coming months, the spokesperson said.
The “double whammy” of rising energy costs and a new pay scale for teachers has school administrators worried. An unidentified executive headteacher in a multi-academy trust, responsible for several secondary schools in urban areas, said, “I’m already at the bare bones of support staff. As employees leave, we won’t be replacing them. His schools are already combining students from different classes to make up for teachers’ absences.
The effects on children “will be profound for generations,” according to Dan Morrow, CEO of the Devon-based Dartmoor multi-academy trust. This year, his trust needs to come up with £800,000 for utilities and £900,000 for raises in staff salaries.
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