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MILLIONS of low-income households cannot afford to heat their homes, with 2.5 million going without food and heating as freezing temperatures sweep Britain, a damning new report has found.
Analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) yesterday found that some 710,000 households are unable to heed the advice of the UK Health and Security Agency for vulnerable people to warm their homes to at least 18°C, wear extra layers and eat hot food to protect themselves.
A fifth of all low-income households are going without food and heating, with 4.3m people having already curbed their spending on heating even before the cold spell hit.
More than 7m households have gone without at least one of the essentials since June, according to the JRF.
Around 2.4m households have borrowed money or used credit to afford their bills so far this year.
JRF senior economist Rachelle Earwaker said that the government “must see that families won’t be able to get through the winter” on the current levels of support.
She said: “We’re still experiencing historically high inflation and the prices of essentials are still soaring.
“Energy bills, while capped, are still almost double what they were last winter.
“Housing shortages, rising rents and mortgage payments are overburdening budgets across the country.
“The dangerously cold weather on the horizon is cause for concern.
“People are being forced to wager their financial health and whether they can afford more debt, against their wellbeing without sufficient heat, clothing or hot food.”
Ms Earwaker added that the basic social security level is “woefully below” the level that would allow people to afford essentials.
The JRF is urging the government to change universal credit and increase the basic rate of support.
End Fuel Poverty Coalition co-ordinator Simon Francis hit out at the government for “standing by, happy to watch the most vulnerable struggle in fuel poverty.”
He told the Star: “The government could solve this at the stroke of a pen.
“Close the windfall tax loophole which would raise £22 billion and provide the urgent support to those who need it.”
Fuel Poverty Action warned that the situation was desperate and that people will lose their lives as a direct result of government policies.
A government spokesperson said its priority will “always be to support the most vulnerable” and that it is providing support for millions.
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