Ms. Welskop-Deffaa, some representatives of welfare organizations are warning of an imminent collapse of the social infrastructure due to the energy crisis. How dramatic is the situation?
The location of the facilities varies greatly. The medium-sized operator of a retirement home, who is confronted with a tenfold increase in the price of gas, is already on the brink of despair. But there are also providers, including large local Caritas associations, who still have gas contracts with prices of 4 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour with terms up to 2024. Overall, however, the situation is very serious.
Are social offers already being restricted, or are there concrete plans for social cuts?
I don’t know of any carriers in our association who have announced closures. But several say that if a solution is not found soon, we will not know how to proceed.
Do you have an emergency plan in the Caritas association that will help your facilities get through the winter?
Of course, we are constantly in talks and give a lot of advice, but we don’t have our own fund or a special hedging structure.
So what do the providers of facilities, for example day-care centers or retirement homes, do?
You can say that they are acting in three ways: First, they are examining very thoroughly where costs and energy can be saved – our efforts on the way to climate neutrality are paying off twice here. Secondly, efforts are being made to renegotiate existing contracts with the payers because the underlying cost calculations no longer fit. As you can easily imagine, these negotiations are not easy, especially since different payers such as social insurance, local authorities or regional associations are involved. On the third point: The colleagues on site draw up contingency plans for power or gas cuts. We don’t know whether we might end up with a gas shortage after all. It’s all about people. Anyone who is old or disabled must be able to rely on the fact that they will continue to receive the service package of warmth, bed, food and care.
What is the most difficult thing for the institutions to be able to guarantee this reliability?
I would like to mention two points. On the one hand there is the sandwich situation: if suppliers and service providers increase their prices, day-care centers or nursing homes can pass on the cost pressure to their cost bearers, if at all with some delay. This creates at least one liquidity problem, and quickly an existential financing problem.
And the second problem?
Is closely related to the first. Social services are tied into supply chains with companies that are in trouble because of the energy crisis. Let’s take the laundry, which has to raise prices in order not to go bankrupt. If a retirement home has a long-term contract with the laundry company, it could say: I won’t pay more than the contract says. But if the main customers of this laundry are old people’s homes and all homes act like this, they won’t be able to leave their laundry there much longer. That is why it is so important that the gas price brake relieves all consumers, regardless of where they are in the supply chain.