Rising energy bills force bleak choice on families - eat or heat


Brian Brady
Sunday 06 January 2013 01:00
Stark choice: Do you turn on the heat or feed your children?
Stark choice: Do you turn on the heat or feed your children?

Spiralling energy bills are forcing one in four mothers to make the bleak choice between feeding their children and heating their homes, according to a new survey by the Energy Bill Revolution campaign.

The poll shows eight out of 10 families are already rationing the heat in their homes, as millions slide closer to "fuel poverty". Further increases in the price of fuel are expected in the coming months. Nine out of 10 of those "rationing energy" wear extra clothes instead of turning on the heating, 56 per cent turn it off altogether when their children are out, and 45 per cent wrap up in a duvet or blankets to keep warm during the day.

Details of the rationing to curb spiralling costs emerged after officials warned that the number of households suffering fuel poverty will almost double to nine million by 2016. One in four households currently falls into this category, which covers families who spend more than a 10th of their net income on keeping their homes warm.

Domestic fuel bills have risen by an average of 8 per cent this winter, but experts warned a further 5 per cent tariff rise is likely.

Energy Bill Revolution is urging the Government to reduce the number of fuel poor by using money raised by the new carbon tax to "super-insulate" homes. Campaigners argue that better insulation could cut more than £300 from the average fuel bill, as well as creating 100,000 new construction jobs. The carbon tax comes into force in April, and is expected to raise £2.7bn in 2013, rising to £6.8bn in 2027.

The poll of 1,000 members of the parenting website Netmums found that 88 per cent of families are more worried about their winter bills this year than last. One in five says their children are ill more often as a result of colder homes. Sally Russell, the founder of Netmums, said: "These are impossible choices for families to make. With almost nine in 10 families now rationing energy use due to spiralling prices, this signals a new winter of discontent for British families."

Ed Matthew, the director of Energy Bill Revolution, said: "No one should have to make the choice between feeding their family and heating their home."

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