photo credit: lintmachine via photopin cc

Half of low-income families are still struggling with the cost of keeping their homes warm, according to new research.

Research by Turn2us, a charity that helps people in financial need gain access to welfare benefits, found that one in two low-income families are struggling to stay warm, despite being in work.

Nearly half of those surveyed have been battling with extortionate energy costs for over a year, while 33% have even been forced to skip meals.

21% have experienced stress and mental health issues and 37% say energy bills are likely to cause further stress this winter.

The research also found that 71% will cut back spending on heating their homes, or not use the heating at all. Nearly half (44%) will cut back on food to keep the heating on.

However, the research also found that many families are not aware of the support available. Three quarters haven’t sought advice or information on benefits they may be eligible to claim.

Only 12% have informed their energy supplier about their financial situation, and only 5% have approached advice organisations.

A massive 83% were unaware that energy suppliers and charities may have schemes and information available to help people struggling with heating costs.

Fuel poverty was until recently defined as a household which needs to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel. However, the UK Government adopted a new definition for England in 2013.

Fuel poverty in England is now measured by the Low Income High Costs definition, which considers a household to be in fuel poverty if:

  • they have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level), and
  • were they to spend that amount they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.

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 charity’s findings were published as Trussell Trust released new figures showing record levels of hunger in the UK, and warned that further welfare cuts could lead to a “substantial rise in food bank use“.

Trussell Trust Foodbank. Photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc
Trussell Trust Foodbank. Photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc

David McAuley, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust said: “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.”