A huge 78% of low income families in the East Midlands struggled with their energy bills in the last year, with children’s health and wellbeing harmed by strained family finances, finds the national charity Turn2us.
The new research by the charity shows that over three-quarters (76%) of families in the region are struggling to heat their homes so that no one feels cold.
The knock-on effect is severe, with nearly four-fifths (79%) of families saying it is negatively impacting the health of their children and over half (53%) saying their children’s school work has suffered due to cold homes.
As part of its ‘Cut out the Cold’ campaign which runs until 14 February, Turn2us also finds that as a result of these struggles, almost two-thirds (64%) of families are cutting back on food while over half (54%) say that the family diet has suffered, further putting their wellbeing at risk.
As a result, more than two-fifths (45%) of families have experienced illness due to their cold homes, while almost three-fifths (59%) are planning to reduce the temperature of their homes even further despite entering the coldest time of year.
Worryingly, over a fifth (21%) are considering taking out a payday loan to cover the costs they are unable to meet.
Despite families with children now being the largest group of the fuel poor, representing 45% of households in fuel poverty, over half (52%) do not think that there is enough support for struggling families.
Furthermore, families are not aware of the help that exists. Over half (56%) of families have never heard of the Warm Home Discount, nearly two-fifths (38%) have never checked their eligibility for benefits while a massive 82% have not checked what free charitable grants may exist.
In response to these ongoing challenges, Turn2us’ Cut out the Cold Campaign is highlighting the problems experienced by low income families and what support is available.
From 14 January – 14 February 2015, anyone struggling with rising costs can use Turn2us’ free tools and information to see how they can increase their household income and manage their energy costs.
These include checking welfare benefits entitlement, searching for grants and schemes to help with bills, and getting help with managing debt.
Alison Taylor, Director of Turn2us said: “More people than ever before are worried about finding the money to pay for their energy bills.
“People have no option but to cut back on essentials and borrow money.
“It’s alarming that for the first time in a decade, over one million families are struggling in fuel poverty, and at the same time the poorest fifth of households have seen the amount they spend on energy leap up.
“With cold homes affecting children’s health and even their attainment at school, they risk being caught in a cycle of poverty as they grow up.
“We need to see more done to help raise awareness of the financial support and help available to manage energy bills.
“That is why we have launched our Cut out the Cold campaign, to ensure that struggling families get the help they need this winter.
“With household costs continuing to rise, the effects on family finances could be felt for some time. It is vital that people on low incomes are not left behind.”
Turn2us is working in partnership with other charities and organisations across the UK for its ‘Cut out the Cold’ campaign.
*For more information about the campaign, please visit www.CutouttheCold.com.