NEW research by the national charity Turn2us has found that one in two low income households are struggling to afford their energy costs, despite being in work. Amongst the hardest hit are people with disabilities, with over two in three (67%) reporting their struggles, and families, with almost two-thirds of working parents (65%) unable to meet these costs.
Worryingly, of those households who are struggling with energy costs, nearly half (48%) have done so for more than a year. The knock-on effect is severe, with a third (33%) forced to skip meals and over a fifth (21%) experiencing stress and other mental health problems. Furthermore, nearly two-fifths (39%) are struggling with other essential bills, with Council Tax topping the list of payments they’re behind on (30%).
As the weather turns colder, the research also uncovers how low income workers will cope with these costs through the winter. Of those households worried about their energy costs, a huge 71% feel they will have to cut back on or not use their heating, whilst over two-fifths (44%) said they would resort to cutting back on food. Nearly two in five (37%) anticipate that their energy bills will cause further stress and worry in the coming months.
There are 2.3 million households living in fuel poverty in England alone*, and it is estimated that nearly half of these are in work.** As debate continues around proposed cuts to the tax credits system, there is growing concern that low income working households’ finances could be even harder hit from next year.
Turn2us’ research also suggests a lack of awareness of the help that could be available to low income working households, or potential reluctance to access it. Of those who are struggling to pay their energy costs, only 12% have told their energy supplier about their situation, and only 5% have turned to an advice organisation for help. Three-quarters have not checked their eligibility for welfare benefits in the last twelve months, whilst a huge 83% are unaware that some energy suppliers have charitable trusts set up to help certain customers.
This winter, Turn2us is running its No Cold Homes campaign specifically to help more people who are unable to afford to heat their homes. The charity is encouraging anyone in financial hardship to use its free online service to see if they are eligible for welfare benefits, charitable grants and other support – additional income which could help them manage their energy costs over the colder months.
Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us said: “Our research paints a startling picture, revealing the extent to which households are struggling to heat their homes, even though they’re in work. It is clear that more needs to be done to help raise awareness of the financial support and other help available to people on low incomes to help them manage their energy costs.
We know that this is an issue that affects a wide range of people, and alongside working households, many others will suffer this winter. We believe that no one should have to live in a cold home. Through our campaign, we urge anyone struggling to check what support could be available.”
The No Cold Homes campaign runs from 18 November to 16 December 2015. As part of the campaign, Turn2us is hosting an online celebrity clothes auction (30 November – 9 December) to raise awareness of people’s struggles to heat their homes, and funds to help more people affected.
For more information, please visit www.turn2us.org.uk/NoColdHomes.