One in four families cutting back on energy bills to pay rent or mortgage

Four out of 10 families with children have cut down on food spend to pay housing costs

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The Independent Online

A new report from Shelter reveals 27 per cent of the 4,000 people questioned have cut back on gas and electricity bills to help pay their rent or mortgage.

Nearly a third had cut back on food, as 64 per cent of families with children say they struggled to pay their rent or mortgage last year.

"These startling figures show the daily heartache millions of parents are going through as they face the choice between putting food on the table and paying for the roof over their head," said Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive.

"The effects of the recession, the rising cost of housing and cuts to the housing safety net have left many families in a very vulnerable position. Every fifteen minutes a family in England finds themselves homeless."

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at said: "Ofwat's price hike coming into play on Easter Monday raising the average annual water bill to £388 will leave many households drowning as they try and keep on top of their increasing bills.

"Following the wave of winter price hikes from the big six, consumers now face coughing up  a staggering £1,740 a year on energy, water and sewerage alone. The relentless rise in the cost of household bills could leave consumers simply unable to stay afloat. And despite recent profit announcements, energy suppliers have not ruled out further price rises this year so the squeeze on household budgets could continue to tighten."

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy added: "The Government's claim to providing a cushion between energy prices and household bills is unlikely to offer much comfort to the tens of thousands of people racking up debts because they can't afford to heat their homes or keep the lights on. Household fuel bills are going up and bureaux see too many families forced to make the decision between heating and eating."

Meanwhile, a new report from the London Assembly out today warns the problem of hungry families and schoolchildren in the capital is set to escalate over the coming months. It claims that many of the 34,000 people using food banks are simply not earning enough to cover food and bills and calls on the Mayor and the London Food Board to turn London into a Zero Hunger city.