Brits have been so badly hit by fuel poverty during the pandemic that families are rationing warmth.
Figures from the Fuel Bank Foundation reveal that 91 percent of families they helped this year are rationing heat and hot water – and eight in ten sacrifice hot meals to save on heating bills.
The charity, which gives emergency help to households with pay-as-you-go meters, has seen a 23 per cent rise in people seeking help this year – an extra 16,707 people.
The statistics follow an Ofgem warning that energy bills could rise by almost £100 a year for 15 million UK households as providers pass on the rising cost of gas and electricity to customers.
Matthew Cole, the foundation’s chair of trustees, said many families are self-disconnecting as they try to homeschool their children in cold conditions.
He said: “We know that living in fuel crisis has a detrimental effect on people’s physical health. Living in a cold home increases the risk of serious illness and even death, particularly among the elderly. However, the impact on mental health is less understood.
“In the worst scenarios people are running out of fuel completely and have their meters switched off.
“The majority of those who end up in this situation were or had been borrowing money from friends or family and using emergency credit on their meter. It’s like they have exhausted their options for support and have no choice but to disconnect.”
The Foundation, set up in 2015, has helped 400,000 people through a £49 voucher scheme to people top up their prepayment meters. It works in partnership with advice agencies and food bank charities, including The Trussell Trust and Feeding Britain.
One mum in Barnet, London, told how she is forced to ration heat for her one-year-old son and five-year-old daughter.
The 28-year-old single mum, who asked to remain anonymous, relies on universal credit after being forced to stop childminding during the pandemic.
She said: “By the time I pay my £1500 rent every month I’m left with £290 and half of that goes on feeding the electrify meter. I’m constantly switching it off to try and save money and our rented property is old and draughty.
“I feel terrible homeschooling my daughter in a cold house but what else can I do? I also have to rely on food banks and wouldn’t get through a week if I didn’t.”
A new survey by Confused.com has identified the top ten worst-hit areas of Britain for fuel poverty.
Cardiff has the largest number of households struggling at 24 percent, followed by Glasgow at 21percent and Belfast and Edinburgh, both at 17pc.
Liverpool just pips Manchester (15.5pc) at 15.6 per cent, followed by Leicester at 14.6 pc, Birmingham, 14.2 percent. Nottingham, 13.9 per cent and Wolverhampton, 12.7pc.
Confused.com’s energy expert Max Green said: “Fuel poverty affects so many of us across the UK. Worryingly, potentially millions of people are at risk, but they may not necessarily know it. Households with a lower than average income, high energy requirements or expensive energy bills are at risk of falling below the UK poverty line.”