Woman lives on noodles to afford her utility bills
A woman with respiratory problems, who had an electrically-operated oxygen tank at home, ate cheap noodles every day to be able to afford her utility bill, Labour health spokesman Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said yesterday.
“There are people who are energy poor. I spoke to a woman from Cospicua last week. She needs an oxygen tank at home to live. She just about passes the means test, so she’s not entitled to the energy benefit. She told me she can only afford to eat noodles,” Ms Coleiro Preca said.
She was speaking during a public dialogue on social poverty held at the Fgura PL club.
Ms Coleiro Preca said that during home visits she had knocked on people’s doors to find they were wearing coats indoors. “I’d think they are about to go somewhere but it’s just that they cannot afford to buy gas for heating,” she said.
She accused the government of ignoring the reality of poverty in Malta. In 2000, EU figures already showed that Maltese people were at risk of poverty.
Twelve years down the line, the problem grew. Figures now showed that more than 15 per cent of the Maltese population is at risk of poverty, she said.
Ms Coleiro Preca said the educational system was partly to blame for the increasing poverty rate as it allowed students to slip through the system.
“I know a girl who’s in secondary school now. She needs help but she was never provided with a learning support assistant. Then we wonder why some children remain illiterate,” she said.
She added that the class of the “working poor” had emerged in Malta over the past years. Hard workers were not managing to cope with bills. Some people were facing unfair work conditions.
She said she met a woman, who worked as a supervisor with children at the government support agency Appoġġ, who was employed as self-employed.
A total of 500 care workers contracted to serve in state hospitals remained underpaid and exploited. Last September, a board of inquiry, appointed by the government, recommended that the 1977 regulations governing work conditions of contracted workers be reviewed. However, this had not happened, she said.
Ms Coleiro Preca said an elderly couple told her that a businessman, who owned a home for the elderly, had approached asking them to donate their property to him in exchange of lifetime care.
They had been waiting to get into St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly for years and felt they had no choice but to accept.
Charles Agius, who will be contesting the Fgura local council elections, said that during home visits he met families who had their electricity supply suspended because they did not pay the bill. They took their children to their neighbour’s house to use the computer.
A 50-year-old woman, whose husband passed away and had a son, lived on €400 a month. She was finding it hard to find a job due to her age, he said.
Carmel Azzopardi, a family therapist who will be contesting the general election on the Labour ticket, said the stresses of cost of living were breaking up families. He stressed on the importance of having a family policy.
Labour MP Joe Debono Grech called on his party to reach out to people by teaching people about the history of the party that worked so hard to fight poverty.