Fuel poverty victims speak out: “I couldn’t afford to wash myself”

The findings should put into sharp focus how desperate the situation is for many

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The stark realities of the difficulties faced by those in fuel poverty are revealed in a new study published today.

The charity Christians Against Poverty asked people what life was like before they got debt help.

Some of the findings are shocking. More than half admitted that being unable to afford gas and electricity meant they had struggled to wash themselves or their clothes. On top of that they couldn’t cook hot food or heat their home.

“Fuel poverty isn’t just about keeping warm, vital as that is,” said CAP’s chief executive Matt Barlow. “It’s about the grinding poverty that calls people to make impossible choices like do I make a hot meal or bathe the kids.

“Anecdotally we knew these were the kinds of issues the UK’s poorest people are living with but the findings show just how widespread it is.”

Policy makers, including Energy Secretary Ed Davey, are meeting today in Scarborough to discuss fuel poverty. The findings should put into sharp focus how desperate the situation is for many.

“As we head into the colder months, our concerns are for the people who can’t afford to put the heating on and can’t get a hot meal inside them,” said Mr Barlow. “We don’t yet know if it will be a hard winter but if it is, some people simply won’t survive that kind of hardship.”

Winter weather can be disastrous for vulnerable people. The latest official figures show that were an estimated 31,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2012/13 – a 29 per cent increase compared with the previous winter.

Many will have been because of fuel poverty, which can leave people having to choose between heating and eating because they can’t afford energy bills. Some 6.59 million UK households are currently defined as being in fuel poverty.