A survey by the charity, which provides fuel vouchers to people who can’t afford to top up their prepayment meter, found that in the 12 months prior to receiving help from the Fuel Bank Foundation more than half (59%) had to make the choice between heating or eating at least once a week, with 15% saying daily.
Fifty-one per cent of people sacrificed a hot meal more than once a week to save energy, while 44% of those surveyed rationed heating and hot water every day. Other money and energy saving measures included not using electrical appliances, skipping meals altogether, buying cheaper or less food, not showering/bathing as often, and not buying clothes for children.
The extent to which lower income households with prepayment energy meters have been impacted by rising fuel bills and the cost-of-living crisis is made clear in the Fuel Bank Foundation’s newly published Fuel Crisis Report.
At the time of receiving support from the charity, 61% were either using emergency credit on the meter or had already run out of credit and the gas and electricity was switched off. Eighteen per cent of the people surveyed said their meter was about to run out in the next couple of days and they couldn’t afford to top it up, while 16% said they were keeping the electricity on but were having to make significant sacrifices elsewhere.
In addition to paying for fuel, almost all (96%) said they were struggling to pay other essential household bills, including groceries, travel, Council Tax, water, and rent/mortgage.
Matthew Cole, head of Fuel Bank Foundation, said the report paints a stark picture of the harsh reality millions of people with prepayment meters face every day and highlights the need for more targeted financial support from government for low-income households.
Between April and December last year, Fuel Bank Foundation issued more than 106,000 fuel vouchers, nearly four times as many as the same period in 2021. The vouchers directly helped 225,000 people, including 96,000 children.