Eat or heat – the stark choice facing families

9th Jan 2013

Rising energy bills are forcing households to make a harsh decision – eating or heating

One in four mothers are now having to make the choice between spending money on food or paying energy bills according to a recently published study by the Energy Bill Revolution campaign. The survey, which questioned 1,000 members of the Netmums website, shows that eight out of ten families are rationing the heating in their homes. Millions are, in effect, sliding into fuel poverty – the point at which a tenth of household income is spent on energy bills. It also found that at least 88 percent of respondents are more concerned about energy bills this year than they were during 2012.

Fuel prices are expected to continue rising over the next few months and nine out of ten of those responding to the study are choosing to switch off their central heating and wear extra clothes instead. 56 percent of respondents turn off their boiler completely when the children are out and 45 percent wrap themselves up in a duvet or blankets to keep warm. A fifth of respondents also said their children were ill as a result of having to live in cold homes.

Officials warn that the number of households experiencing fuel poverty will almost double to nine million by 2016. Fuel bills have already risen by an average of 8 percent and experts are saying that a further 5 percent rise is to be expected in the coming months.

“These are impossible choices for families to make” said Sally Russell, the founder of parenting website Netmums. “With almost nine in 10 families now rationing energy use due to spiralling prices, this signals a new winter of discontent for British families.”

The Energy Bill Revolution campaign is urging the government to use money from the new carbon tax for super-insulation in UK homes. The campaign argues that this could cut over £300 from the average fuel bill and create at least 100,000 new jobs in the construction industry. The new carbon tax will come into force in April and is expected to raise around £2.7 billion in 2013 reaching £6.8 billion by 2027.