“I bathe my children by heating 12-liter pots”

This is the story of a woman who has resigned herself to being cold. He has accepted it as a chronic disease that is best not to pay too much attention so as not to be discouraged. I can not do another thing. For now.

Fatima does not set the heating. "It's unfeasible," he says. In his new house, which he accessed a decade ago thanks to IVIMA, the social housing agency of the Community of Madrid, "it has been ignited exactly on rare occasions, coinciding with the birth of my children and little else." He has four and they have also adopted the cold as something irremediable. They can only be detached from it in the living room of the house, where the stove that works with butane is. "It is the cheapest option, the bottle comes to me at approximately 17 euros and is changed at most three times a month." On the coldest days, Fatima turns it on as soon as she wakes up, at seven in the morning "to allow time for the room to warm up before raising the children." They have breakfast and change clothes attached to the stove. Home life takes place in that room. There you eat dinner, study, play. "The rooms are only used for sleeping." She does it with her two younger children, "we give each other warmth." To older people "I put two Nordics and so they say they are not cold." The worst moment is undoubtedly when it comes to shower because the boiler has not worked since summer. Inviable it is also for this mother to call a technician in case she could be repaired. Much less change it for a new one. So they manage by heating pots. "I have two of 12 liters. I bathe the little ones together, I pour an entire one in the bathtub and then they get in and soapy. Then I take another one to clarify them. With Salma - her eldest daughter more because she has long hair and is much higher. "" We've got used to it. It's ugly to say, but in winter instead of taking a shower every day, we do it four times a week, "Fatima says, downplaying it. It's the only way to maintain fortitude.

That of this family is part of that 10% of households that suffer from energy poverty. In Spain, 4.6 million people live in inadequate air conditioning conditions, which should be between 18 and 21 degrees in winter and 25 in summer, according to the World Health Organization. The Association of Environmental Sciences (ACA), specialized in this problem, summarizes in three the most frequent causes: high energy prices, low income and inefficient buildings. "My house is not well insulated, when there is wind the window curtain rises." Fatima does not dare to ask the IVIMA to reinforce them, to give a facelift to their older homes and that now they do not meet the energy efficiency requirements.

Since he was unemployed five years ago he receives 588 euros of the Minimum Income and that entitles him to another series of subsidies, such as the children's school canteen or the electric social bonus, which allow him to pull forward. It was Cáritas Madrid who helped him manage it, “but I still don't turn on the heating, this month I have received 35 euros and that is what I can face,” he says. "I have not plugged in any device again, just in case," he adds. He still remembers the 150 euros he had to pay for “five days that I put the heating on a very cold month” and the “190 when I tried to replace it with electric radiators and that did not justify the consumption I had made”. "Yes, now neither one thing nor the other."

CLike Fatima, there are one million people benefit from this social bonus that lowers the electricity bill by 25%. With the 2018 reform, Spain has improved the conditions to access it: among other measures, the income limit was lowered and the cost paid by the distribution companies, when in the rest of the countries of the European Union the coffers assume public. Juan Luis López, director of the ACA and specialist in energy, climate change and energy poverty, applauds this reform because before "it was not clear if its application was fair or not because it was subject to very specific criteria." For example, the previous one only took into account unemployment and now income is also studied. "It may be the case that a person, despite working alive in conditions of vulnerability for a low salary," explains López. Before the reform, the bonus was also applied to people who hired a low power "but this was also unfair because it could be the case that it was a second home that is not used much."

Now, says the director of the ACA, more specific criteria are established: number of people in the household and if there are minors “but it is no longer given directly to large families because, in fact, it is single-parent households that are usually vulnerable " Minimum amounts of income are also established for pensioners "because before they were given directly to widowers and they do not have to be all vulnerable" and in the case of workers with permanent disability.

Despite the positive assessment, José Luis López calls for a simplification of the process of requesting the electric bond since “it is a very complicated process and not everyone is prepared to do it”, that “the Government grants it automatically” and that establish a "single social bond that groups all the energy, not just the electricity one".


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