New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that almost two-thirds (65%) of low income parents are struggling to afford their energy costs, despite being in work. This compares to 42% of working households without children.
Of those families who are struggling, over two-fifths (41%) have done so for more than a year. Shockingly, in the last twelve months, one in ten (10%) has seen their energy supply disconnected due to unpaid energy costs.
As the weather gets colder, more than three in five (63%) low income working parents admit they’re worried about their energy costs this winter. Nearly two-thirds (65%) will cut back on their heating, or not use it at all, whilst 47% said they would resort to cutting back on food. A third (32%) are concerned about incurring debt from these costs.
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 family 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 families, or potential reluctance to access it. Of those who are struggling to pay their energy costs, only 11% have told their energy supplier about their situation, and only 6% have turned to an advice organisation for help. More than three-quarters (79%) have not checked their eligibility for welfare benefits in the last twelve months, whilst a huge 81% 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 families 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 new findings from Turn2us are released on the same day that The Trussell Trust releases its latest figures showing that numbers helped by foodbanks nationwide are still at record levels, and that winter is likely to see a further spike in need.
David McAuley, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust says: “This important research from Turn2us reinforces what we see on the ground day-in day-out at foodbanks. During winter we meet families who are all sleeping together in one room to share warmth, who cannot afford to heat the home and have no money for food. There are too many people struggling to afford fuel and food in the UK, and winter is the hardest time of year for many people in poverty. That’s why urgent action is needed and why we welcome the Turn2us No Cold Homes Campaign and the difference it could make to some of the UK’s poorest households.”
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.