“We disconnected our energy supply after the price hike – and only shower once a week”

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Kathy Lamprell knows a hot bath would help her spinal arthritis, but her smart meter shows even a quick shower costs 30p. His gas and electricity bill has more than tripled

Kathy Lamprell at her home in Eastbourne, East Sussex

At a garage sale in rural Hampshire, Myra is looking for some wooden chairs. A former antiques dealer, she’s not looking for rare finds, but cheap firewood to burn. “We’re also looking for free firewood on Facebook, people are getting rid of pallets,” she says.

His household used fuel oil for heating. “Last time we bought some it was £258,” she says. “Now it’s £750. We can’t afford it, so we do without.

Myra and her partner have stopped using the stove and instead use an inexpensive portable stove. They put on immersion once a week so they can both take a shower. She admits to being “exhausted” with worry. “But it’s becoming normal that people don’t use their devices, that we live like that,” says Myra, 63.

In Eastbourne, East Sussex, Kathy Lamprell, 62, knows a hot bath would help her spinal arthritis, but her smart meter shows even a quick shower costs 30p. Since her gas and electricity bill has more than tripled, she’s too afraid to use most of her appliances or turn on the heating.







Kathy is not using her stove or heater due to rising costs
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Picture:

Steve Reigate)








Kathy’s gas and electric bill has more than tripled
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Picture:

Steve Reigate)


Kathy is on disability benefits after a car accident, so there’s no hope her income will grow to cope with soaring utility bills or runaway inflation. Yet even with everything turned off, there are ongoing fees that must be paid. “I’m sitting there looking at the meter, watching it,” she said.

These two sexagenarians are not alone in an increasingly disconnected Brittany. Across the UK, people are constantly switching off devices and even ‘disconnecting’ from public services altogether.

Andy Shaw, head of debt advisory policy at StepChange, says they are seeing clients move from “rationing” energy to “taking more extreme measures”. He adds: “In some cases, customers using prepayment meters feel they have no choice but to stop using their gas or electricity altogether, a practice known as auto -disconnection.

“Citizens Advice found that self-disconnecting is common among low-income people – nearly one in three prepaid customers according to their research in 2020. These are often ‘last resorts’ for people who feel that they have no other choice.”

Two years into the pandemic, research from University College London has found that more people in the UK are worried about their finances than about catching Covid-19.

Inflation last week hit 7%, the highest rate since 1992. This month’s price cap hike saw an additional two million UK households plunged into fuel poverty – a total of 6, 5000000.







Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves
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PENNSYLVANIA)


Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves says she has seen ‘really disturbing cases’ in her own constituency of Leeds West.

“The cost of living is hitting households hard. Moms skip meals. Pensioners were afraid to turn on the heating. It’s really concerning to me that people have to make choices like cutting their own diets.

‘And now, rather than slashing energy bills with a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas producers, as demanded by Labor, the Chancellor has raised workers’ taxes to their highest level in 70 years.

“Working families and businesses are called upon to endure greater hardship because of the choices Rishi Sunak has made.”

Facebook groups once dedicated to budget hacks talk about how to go offline to survive. A woman in her 50s says she works three part-time jobs but has had to stop using her oven and watch TV in the dark.







Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
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REUTERS)


“I bought a small air fry tabletop oven because I can’t afford to use a full oven and preheat it,” she writes. “I watch TV at night, I don’t have any lights on…I eat one meal a day.” Another writes: “I turned off our heating and hot water system. We have an electric shower and use the kettle to do the dishes. There is no way we can reduce in any other way. Everything is disconnected… We are financially screwed up.

Charities across the sector are increasingly concerned that families are being left in the cold and dark. Chris Birt, Associate Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says: “When we hear of families unable to turn on the hob to cook, only using one light bulb at a time, and elderly people taking the bus all day to stay warm, it’s hard to understand how the government can choose to allow a historic cut in real terms to benefits right now. “Yet that is what the Chancellor has done – resulting in the biggest drop in such benefits in 50 years. Her failure to recognize the gravity of the situation will lead to more people being sucked into the kind of crushing daily hardships to which they is very difficult to escape.

Matt Copeland, policy and public affairs manager at National Energy Action, adds that self-disconnection is “unfortunately common” among prepayment meter customers who are struggling to pay their bills. “With the price cap having increased, we’re going to see more people resorting to this,” he says. “The coming winter is a potential disaster with another price hike.”

Christians Against Poverty received more calls to its helpline in March than at any time during the pandemic, while requests for emergency fuel refills doubled.

Our team of cost of living experts is here to help YOU through a very difficult year.

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Paul Walmsley of the charity says: “One of our biggest concerns about the cost of energy rising so rapidly, at a time when everything else is also rising, is that some people are so desperate right now that they may feel they have no choice but to stop using energy, stop cooking themselves hot meals and sitting frozen in the dark .

“This could have a serious health impact, so we encourage anyone in this situation to seek help as soon as possible.”

Among a package of measures to protect the most vulnerable, National Energy Action and others are calling for a new mandatory social tariff and a one-time rebate for low-income households that does not have to be repaid.

Kathy Lamprell says the £200 energy ‘loan’ the Chancellor is offering families scares her. “The £200 we’re all forced to take in October is going to put me in debt – I don’t want it,” she says. In addition to needing more help from Sunak, she supports the idea of ​​a windfall tax on energy companies to help people survive. “These companies make a fortune,” she says. “They should help us.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: ‘There is little evidence of any major change in the number of disconnections.

“However, we recognize the pressures households are facing with the cost of living, which is why we have a £22billion support package, including a £150 council tax refund this month. This and a £200 energy bill rebate from October to cut energy bills quickly for the majority of households.

www.nea.org.uk/advice-support

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