It was the news no one wanted to hear, but with the cost of living crisis worsening further fears became a reality last week when Ofgem, Britain’s energy regulator, announced the cap on energy bills has risen by an eye-watering 80%.
Now, the energy price cap will rocket to £3,549 on October 1st: an extortionate sum of money that will pile more pressure on families who are already strapped for cash thanks to rising food and fuel prices.
While the increasing bills will pack a punch on everyone’s wallets, it’s Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable families which will be most adversely affected, with a recent study showing some of the lowest income families will be forced to spend 47% of their entire household budget on energy costs.
Meanwhile, families who have to support sick or disabled children, are battling debilitating illnesses themselves, or have no option but to work from home find themselves in a more precarious position.
Metro.co.uk spoke to three people about what rising energy bills mean to them.
Electrical equipment keeps our daughter alive – we don’t know how we will pay for it
Dan Aspley is a full-time carer who lives in Tamworth with his wife Marie and his 14-year-old daughter Callie, who has has rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata, a rare and severe form of dwarfism. He says:
‘Callie’s disability affects her both physically and mentally. She’s non-verbal and doesn’t go to school. However since contracting a nasty virus about three years ago, Callie has been entirely bedbound, and I became her full-time carer.
It means that our daughter is now reliant on a lot of technology: She has her bipap (NIV) machine for her breathing, and humidifier unit including a back up in case of problems and back up batteries in case of power cuts, oxygen concentrators, sats monitoring equipment on all the time. Callie is also fed through a tube several times a day.
With our energy bills already at £450 at month, come October they’re going to rise £750 – and a big chunk is paying for Callie’s electrical equipment. We get a small rebate back for the oxygen concentrator, but it barely touches the sides.
We’re already worried as Callie’s disability is life limiting but this is just extra anxiety about how we’re going to be able to keep paying for her equipment.
And it’s not just the machines, a lot of her favourite activities rely on things that will push up her energy bill.
One thing Callie loves is watching Christmas lights. When she was born, she had cataracts in both eyes, and even though they were removed, her focus is really limited.
We have a whole range of Christmas lights up all year round she watches, as well as sensory lights that she can focus on. Callie also loves listening to music and finds it really funny when I sing along – which I do badly, as I can barely hold a tune.
She enjoys playing with balloons and drinking small hot chocolates every day. They’re really small, simple pleasures for her that we’re now worried we may no longer be able to provide.
We’ve already massively cut back and changed our lifestyle, particularly after Callie was sick three years ago. When she deteriorated, Marie and I knew we had to move as we needed more space, and I had quit my job so we needed somewhere reasonably priced. We ended up moving in with my mother, which has been stressful but we’ve had to make things work. We don’t pay rent but we do pay the bills.
My wife works four days a week, partially so she can spend more time with Callie but also because if she works any more, I will lose some of Carer’s Allowance, which is already such a pittance at £69.70 a week. We get child tax credits and Callie’s disability living allowance, but that’s about it. It was once something that we could live quite comfortably on, but it’s now extremely restrictive and we can’t make ends meet.
There’s no money for new clothes. My car is effectively off the road – we can’t afford to use it at all but we can’t sell it either. We’ve cancelled all our extra subscriptions, such as Netflix, and the moment our phone contract expires, we’re changing our mobiles to the cheapest tariff.
We’ve had to strip everything back to the bare basics, even with our food. Fortunately, my mum has an allotment so we can get some veg from there.
The new allowance everyone is receiving from government doesn’t even take care of a month’s worth of the energy bill for us.
Everyone needs help right now, but those with the extra medical equipment and needs, they really need assistance. Everything we have for Callie is keeping her out of hospital and alive.
You’re going to find that as more and more people can’t pay the bills, then their loved ones are going to be end up hospital or die.
At the minute, Callie is still classed as a child and we don’t have to pay for all the medicines. There will be people out there having to decide whether they can buy their meds. That’s a concern. If this is going on in three year’s time, what kind of situation are we going to be in? How will we afford her meds?
Callie has very little in her life, outside of lights and music and us. There’s worries we’ll have to give up on those things. And even the little things she has, like hot chocolate, whether we’ll be able to keep paying that for her.
We just want to be able to give her that one single pleasure.’
Future price hikes are unthinkable and unpayable
Joseph Seager runs the Thrifty Chap blog and lives in the North of England with his his wife, who works as a freelance graphic designer, and their three children, age nine, six and three. He says:
‘As both myself and my wife are freelance, we’ve always been very careful with spending money. I work from home full-time running the Thrifty Chap blog which gives money-saving tips, as well as business and finance advice.
It is hard to have a sense of stability when the work doesn’t come in – with the state of other people’s finances at the moment, my clients may not be able to afford my services.
I have had to diversify my work in order to keep more of a handle on our finances. If I lose one income stream, I still have others. I’ve been in a position of redundancy where your entire income is taken away in one swoop, so having multiple ones makes things more stable.
Because of that, we’ve always been cautious with our funds. We watch what we spend and try and get the most of what we have. We buy things that matter to us but are thrifty rather than frivolous.
Thankfully, because my wife and I are freelance, we have been able to juggle childcare with our work and now the youngest is about to go to pre-school we will be able to increase our workload slightly.
Our energy bills are always okay during the summer – we literally turn our central heating off at the end of March and we won’t be putting it back on until November, earliest.
But now we’re making even more of an effort to watch our energy use with the news of price hikes. We’re doing basic things, like switching appliances off at the plug, taking shorter showers and even changing our cooking habits where we use the air fryer and slow cooker more than the traditional gas oven.
We’re doing everything we can to save money now. We’ve cut our streaming services altogether, we’ve changed to shop at a budget supermarket, and trying to walk more instead of using the car. We’re certainly a lot more aware of how we’re spending money.
Future price rises are unpayable, unsustainable and unthinkable for most of us. The £3.5k October price cap is too much for people, and looking at the projected £6k+ prices for April 2023, it’s not possible for people to pay.
There has to be Government intervention. We have a price cap that doesn’t cap things, it moves where it wants. It should only be able to rise a certain percentage every period to protect customers.
People will die this winter because they simply can’t afford to heat their homes and put food on the table. We shouldn’t be in a position where churches and council buildings are being opened as warm banks.’
Rising bills are worrying me more than my cancer
Joanna Shaw, 50, works in sales for a Dundee-based company. She was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, and has been off from work since February as she recovers. She says:
‘When I turned 50, I was invited to my first regular mammogram, and doctors discovered small amounts of breast cancer in one of my breasts. Because it had spread, I needed to have a mastectomy and a reconstruction, as well as chemo and radiotherapy.
I’ve been off sick from work since February as I battle cancer. I’ve just finished chemo, and now I’m preparing for a course of radiotherapy.
Before my diagnosis, I never had finance troubles and lived quite comfortably on my salary.
I’m not really someone who is a keen saver. I did have some money put aside for emergencies, but that’s all been eaten away now. I’m now at a place where I’m pay check to pay check and eating up all of my overdraft every month. It’s really scary.
My gas bill has soared from £150 a month to £260 a month for my three bedroom house – and that’s just for me on my own.
In the first rise, I was really tightening my belt. When it comes to energy, I would religiously switch off everything that wasn’t needed.
It was really difficult going through the chemotherapy, as one of the side effects is fluctuating temperature. During the heatwave I’d be so hot and I’d have a fan on all day and all night, but then I would be scared about the energy bill. I had to sleep in the living room, as it was the only place in the house I could keep cool.
Knowing the bills are going up again has been incredibly stressful. Because I’ve been off sick, my salary has dropped – but because I’m technically still in full-time work, I’m not eligible for any extra financial support. If I try and get help with paying my mortgage, my credit score will drop and it will make things difficult for me to buy a house in the future.
Things are so bad that I’ve already been in touch with work to see if they could have me back sooner while I’m going though radiotherapy, as I’m in a situation where I’m struggling to pay my bills every month.
I was never the person who would worry about leaving the TV on standby but that’s all changed. I handwash all my clothes now and I don’t touch my dishwasher. I only shower and I never have baths. I’m even using less toilet paper to make it last longer.
I’ve started going to a food exchange with my friend, who is unemployed, where they have food going out of date. We go there quite often and I freeze a lot. That’s not something I would have really known about let alone used before but I’m now going to have to use more readily.
I’m so worried to the point that I can’t allow myself to think ahead to further price rises. I’m just going week to week at the moment. I’m hoping I’ll be back in full time employment at that point but even then, if prices continue to rise, I don’t know how I’m going to afford everything. It’s causing me sleepless nights and anxiety, which isn’t great when you’re trying to recover from cancer.
It’s even impacting my treatment – I have to have my radiotherapy in Glasgow, and while I will be reimbursed for travel, I’m worried I won’t even have the cash to travel there in the first place.
I was hoping when I had my last chemo a few weeks ago, I’d be celebrating but if I’m honest, the cost of living is worrying me more than my cancer, as I don’t know how I’m going to feed myself from month to month.
Going through cancer treatment means I haven’t thought about selling my house as that would just be too much stress. But going into next year, I’m going to have to rethink where I work, and even getting another job. Maybe down the line, I might need to think about leaving my house and going to a bungalow. I’m just so scared, and there doesn’t seem to be any help coming.’
Maggie’s is a charity that provides free support to people with cancer and their family and friends in centres across the UK – find your nearest centre at maggies.org.
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