Single parents on the poverty line ‘don’t know what to cut’ as gas prices rise


Single parents on the poverty line say they “don’t know what to cut” as rising fuel prices threaten already precarious finances.

Rising gas prices grabbed the headlines this week as soaring gas prices put six energy providers out of business, leaving 1.5 million customers in dire straits.

Industry regulator Ofgem’s energy price cap stands at £ 1,309 per year from October 1, with companies still in place raising their bills in the fall to cover costs.

That means an additional 392,000 households will fall victim to fuel poverty this winter, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition warned, adding to the three million people already affected.

The triple whammy of stagnant benefits, the rising cost of living and a £ 140 increase in his energy bill will leave Brian rationing the dishes.

The costs, added to inflation and national insurance fees and food shortages have been dubbed “the winter of discontent.”

Brian, a disabled single parent who lives in Kingston, is one of three million people living in fuel poverty in the UK.

The father of a child is dependent on the Employment and Support Allowance (ASE), an inherited allowance for people with disabilities.

ESA failed to increase in line with universal credit to help families weather the pandemic, leaving Brian and his 15-year-old daughter to cut food, energy and internet bills due to home care measures .

“Last year we froze in our house because we couldn’t afford to turn on the heat,” he said. I.

“I had to ration when I was doing the dishes because of the price of hot water.

“Switching to universal credit is not the solution, because I would lose even more money. Plus, it would take five weeks to pass ESA, leaving us with nothing.

Brian and his daughter have relied on food banks since they set up the internet, allowing the college student to track her education online during the lockdown.

“I don’t know what is left to cut this year and if the prices will go up even more,” Brian said.

“Gas and heating are some of those extras that I consider a luxury. I usually spend my time wrapped in blankets.

According to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the typical low-income family will be £ 1,750 worse off by next April as fuel hikes take hold.

How the £ 1,750 breaks down

If the government proceeds with the cut in universal credit as planned, if changes in energy price caps and inflation mean that at the same time this couple family is trying to make up for the £ 20 a week that she had before the reduction, she soon needed to find an additional:

  • £ 3 for energy (assuming prepayment meter)
  • £ 8 for other living expenses

= Additional £ 11 per week from October.

On top of that, the same family is expected to find an additional £ 2.50 to cover the increase in national insurance contributions from April 2022 due to the health and social care tax.

This would mean that in total this family may have to find an additional £ 13.50 per week or £ 710 per year (roughly the entire annual clothing and footwear budget for this type of family) and lose £ 20 per year. week thanks to universal credit.

For this family, the additional costs are equivalent to about 3.5% of their weekly disposable income.

The anti-poverty charity said it would cost low-income families an additional £ 31 per week to cope with the rising cost of living on top of the cut in universal credit.

A mother of two, Maria, 37, lives in Belfast and looks after her disabled son, John, full time.

Maria was alarmed when her gas bill dropped from £ 5 to £ 30 per week during the last lockdown, and faces an even bigger bill without the support of £ 20 per week.

“The lift was really helpful and it made us a bit more comfortable so we didn’t have to worry too much,” she said. I.

“The idea of ​​losing that £ 80 a month… that £ 80 a month is our purchases, or all of our gas or electricity money for the month completely gone. We will be minus the £ 80, and everything will go up too. “

Maria struggled to find a flexible job that would allow her to also care for John, who suffers from global developmental delay, autism and chronic kidney disease. She said she would start skipping dinner again so her kids could eat.

She said, “I know it’s not the healthiest, but the kids will eat chicken nuggets and fries. If I have to eat something, it will be a sandwich, not a real dinner.

“Because the heater can’t be turned on that much, we’ll just have to be reasonable and wear more cardigans.

“We are certainly not going to have any luxuries, and the idea of ​​Christmas in two months is just impossible, especially when we have to pay for everything else,” she added.

Brian and Maria both spoke to the Covid Realities Project about their experiences, a Nuffield Foundation research program documenting low-income living during the pandemic.

A government spokesperson said I: “The energy price cap is in place to protect 15 million homes from increases in global gas prices this winter and our rebate for warm homes, winter fuel payments and cold weather payments will continue to support millions of vulnerable and low-income households with their energy bills. .

‘There have been a series of government measures over the past year to support workers, including offering a well-deserved pay rise to around two million of the UK’s lowest paid workers through a higher minimum wage. raised.

“Raising universal credit has always been a temporary measure to help applicants get through the most difficult stages of the pandemic – it is only right that as the economy rebounds we should focus on our plan for it. ‘multi-billion pound job, helping people get back to work and helping employees advance their careers and earn more.

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