One in three working families are struggling to pay their energy bills, according to new data from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching site.
The news come as forecasters predict a cold winter and major energy suppliers are reported to be considering raising their prices for the first time in almost three years.
The research reveals that half of working families are planning to cut their energy use this winter just so that they can afford to pay their bills and a third don’t put their heating on even when their house is too cold.
This is despite two thirds being worried about the negative effect that rationing energy may have on their family’s health. Over half of these families are also concerned that cutting their energy use will negatively affect their child’s performance at school and nearly two thirds say their children don’t focus as well on their homework when their house is cold.
Uswitch says single parent families are most affected with 43% saying their house is too cold for their families but they can’t afford to put the heating on.
To cut down on energy use, one in 10 have lived in one room in their house, a fifth have left the oven door open to heat their home and over 1.5 million families have gone without household essentials to pay for their bills.
USwitch.com is calling for recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) energy market investigation to be implemented quickly to help consumers move away from expensive standard variable tariffs, to drive down bills and improve competition.
In addition, it says the Government should consider extending the Warm Home Discount scheme, which offers vital financial support to many vulnerable consumers, but is only currently available through larger energy providers.
Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “It’s appalling that even families in work are struggling to pay their energy bills – and we haven’t even seen any major price hikes for nearly three years. The biggest worry is that, with signs that prices are on the up, many more families could feel forced to keep the heating down in what’s set to be a very cold winter. When you consider that millions of households are already in debt to their energy supplier, it’s a stark warning that consumers feel they have no other option than to ration their energy.
“Anyone who is concerned about how they’ll pay their energy bill should talk to their supplier now and find out what help is available. Switching providers can also help reduce bills by an average of £403 a year, so shopping around for a better deal should be one of the first things that families try.”