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Lack of energy support for Gypsies and Travellers “soul destroying”

The charity representing Gypsies and Travellers in Wales say their community has been facing a difficult and challenging winter because of the lack of financial support from the UK Government .

Sam Worrall from the charity says it’s taking far too long for people to get money to help with their energy bills because the process is too complicated

“We’ve definitely heard of families who are needing more foodbank vouchers, more support with food, they just haven’t got anything spare, at all and they’re definitely coming to us for more help and support.”

“I was down on site a few months ago and I was speaking to one young woman there who was saying that her electricity had run out and the freezer that she’d kept food in went off and she ended up wasting a load of that food so she was quite upset and it’s frustrating.”

The charity say many Gypsy and Traveller sites like the two run by Cardiff Council aren’t connected to mains gas, and so aren’t eligible for an automatic energy payment. So far, they’ve only processed 33 applications although there more than 150 eligible caravans on the local authority sites in Cardiff.

“The specialist advice was there from the start. People who have that expertise and have that lived experience themselves were in there from day one trying to talk to the government and advise. So why we are here now at the beginning of March, why it’s still an ongoing situation when it doesn’t seem that it should have been that difficult, it’s a question we’d like to know the answer to.”

They say that because politicians don’t have this lived experience, payments aren’t accessible. Many people in the community don’t know they can get payments because they have limited access to the internet, or aren’t on social media, and if they do know they haven’t got the computer literacy to complete applications themselves.

They also say that there are further barriers to people getting these payments despite applications opening. To receive one of the payments people will need to provide a receipt as proof of purchase of alternative fuels. Because of the delay to payments, GT Wales say many people don’t have those receipts, and don’t buy that quantity of fuel at one time.

The UK Government has been approached for comment.

What support is available to Gypsies and Travellers?

People who have a relationship with their energy supplier, like those on local authority sites can apply for the Energy Bill Support Scheme- Alternative Funding (EBSS-AF) Payment. This is a £400 grant and opened on the 27th of February. Gypsies Travellers Wales say they’ve processed 31 applications for this for people living on the two Local Authority Sites in Cardiff and one in Gwent.

But not everyone on local authority sites is eligible for these payments. Gypsies Travellers Wales say only the named person on a pitch tenancy can apply, and because of a ‘chronic lack’ of sites, many people ‘double up’. This means that people park their caravans on their extended family’s pitch, like in Cardiff there’s 80 pitches on the two local authority sites but more than 150 caravans.

These people aren’t eligible for the EBSS-AF payment and have to apply for the Alternative Fuels Payment (AFP) of £200 which opened on the 6th of March. Gypsies Travellers Wales say they’ve only processed 2 applications so far.