Florence residents embrace ‘adopt a bill’ scheme to pay struggling elderly pensioners’ bills

We asked an elderly people charity if this could work in the UK
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  • An ‘adopt a bill’ scheme has been launched in Florence, Italy to ease the strain of soaring energy bills on the vulnerable elderly. The cost of living crisis means we’re all looking for tips when it comes to how to keep your house warm in winter.

    The ‘adopt a bill’ (adotta una bolletta) movement will go some way in helping the thousands of pensioners living alone in Florence. Could this scheme be brought to the UK?

    The ‘adopt a bill’ scheme in Florence

    The movement allows individuals and organisations to donate as much or as little as they would like towards the utility bills of struggling senior citizens. The Montedomini Foundation is collecting donations and has been contacted by lots of individuals and companies wanting to help.

    white radiator in a kitchen

    Image credit: David Parmiter

    Gas and electricity bills are predicted to rise by more than 50% in Italy this winter, and a large segment (27.6%) of the population in Florence is over 65, many living off around 9,000 euros a year.

    Florence mayor, Dario Nardella told the Guardian, ‘The social impact is very strong as we’re facing huge increases in bills. We’ve received many calls and letters from people who are in great difficulty.’ Nardella says the response to the ‘adopt a bill’ scheme has been ‘very impressive.’

    Florence from above at sunset with Duomo in view

    Image credit: Alamy

    Morgan Vine, Head of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, on the other hand, describes the movement as a ‘sticking plaster solution’ that would be disempowering to people aged 65 and over. ‘While the initiative in Florence is undoubtedly well-intentioned, we do not believe it is the right approach for the UK,’ Morgan comments.

    ‘Older people we speak to want to be financially independent and having enough money to manage their own costs is essential to this. Pension Credit – financial support that alleviates poverty for many people in later life and can link recipients to extra support worth up to £7,000 – is one way to improve older people’s situation, but it consistently has the lowest uptake of all income-related benefits,’ she tells us.

    white radiator against a pale blue wall with houseplant and old luggage

    Image credit: BestHeating

    Morgan says Florence’s ‘adopt a bill’ scheme is no more than a short-term fix that takes the responsibility away from the government, whose job it is to ensure the basic needs of older people are met.

    It follows protests across Italy against rising energy bills in which the lights of many monuments have been turned off for 30 minutes. At a time when communities are increasingly fragmented due to urban living, it’s heartwarming to see the solidarity that Florence has shown with ‘adopt a bill.’

    As for whether it’s a long-term solution, remains to be seen.

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