Coping with Low Incomes and Cold Homes
By Catrina Pickering 24th September 2010
The heating vs eating choice is very real for many people on low incomes in the UK. Currently, it’s believed that more than 5 million households in the UK can’t afford to keep adequately warm in winter.
The Centre for Sustainable Energy has just published a study documenting peoples’ experiences of people on low incomes who struggle financially to keep their homes warm in winter. It captures both the cold-dominated misery of having to ration heating and the genuine pride people find in managing (just) to make ends meet in the face of such hardship. Here are some of the voices from the report:
“We were freezing. Sometimes we slept in the living room because I cannot afford to heat up every single room. If you put your central heating on that can use, just for a couple of hours, it can take two or three pounds. I put ten pound on each meter every week and that ten pound has got to last me from week to week. There is no extra money to go and put extra on it, do you understand what I’m saying?” Lucy, not working, single, living with 12 year-old granddaughter
“I would put the heating on just when my boy got home from school. About half three, I’d perhaps have it on till he went to bed. If it was just me, if I could manage not to, I did so. I had three blankets sometimes. I’d just go to bed early, snuggle up in bed just to keep warm… Like I say, if you have to go out to walk the dog to keep warm and then you come in and the house is cold, you think, bloody hell, it’s just made things worse really.” Emily, young single mother, not working, living with her one son
“Well, put it this way, I’ve managed, I’ve had to… I just do my own thing and cut back where I can and I just manage week to week. It’s something you’ve got to do.” Lisa, single, middle-aged, not working, disabled
“In terms of juggling money, my bills always get paid. Yeah, my heating, my rent, my what have you. They always get paid. It’s sort of socialising and stuff like that that falls back.” Matthew, single, middle-aged
“I put [the heating] on and then suddenly realised how much it was costing so turned it off. I turned it off at the wall. At the moment I have got a quilt around me on the sofa because it’s bloody cold… To be honest with you, I haven’t had a meal in the last four days and I’ve still got to wait till Saturday because I don’t have any money. [All I have eaten is] toast. And I have just run out of sugar and I am about to run out of milk, so, it’s a matter of black tea or black coffee, so that’s it. I just have to, I do without.” Brendon, young, single
Find out more about the Centre for Sustainable Energy’s work on fuel poverty.