Some UK households face ‘heat or eat’ dilemma, scholar says
Facing the combined effects of sub-zero temperatures and increasing prices, some families across the United Kingdom (UK) have to juggle their incomes between staying warm or buying food, a Glasgow Caledonian University research fellow said.
Simply put, their choice is between heat or eat.
Many in the country had already been in a rather tight financial position before the cold weather set in, Dr. Keith Baker said.
Last week was a particularly cold one across the UK, with snow, ice and fog warnings in several places.
Dec. 12 was the coldest day in the UK since December 2010, the Met Office said.
As a scholar, Baker has worked with groups seeking to help people faced with the dual problem of a cost-of-living crisis and high energy bills.
“People really are on the line between just and only just about surviving, and being pushed into really quite deplorable situations.”
Inflation has been running high in the UK since last winter, reaching successive new records.
In November, the UK’s consumer price index (CPI) rose by 10.7 percent.
Food and non-alcoholic beverage prices increased by 16.5 percent that month.
“We don’t know how high some food prices are going to rise. Barely a day goes by before you see that the price of one type of food is going up, next day the price of another type of food is going up,” Baker said, adding that this level of uncertainty is detrimental to mental health.
Inflation is being driven mainly by soaring energy prices.
In October, UK households paid 88.9 percent more on average for electricity, gas and other fuels than a year ago, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Domestic gas prices in October were more than double from a year earlier.
People have suffered substantially with their bills going up, Baker said.
“Energy bills will go up to about 2,600 British pounds ($3,146) on average, and I stress that’s average, rising again to 3,000 pounds as of April.”
“We’ve now got to the point where charities are trying to get out warm clothing to people.”
Public libraries and community centers across the UK have thrown open their doors to people eager to escape the cold in their homes, offering warm drinks and hot soup.
Acknowledging that the government support offered by newly installed Chancellor Jeremy Hunt may go some way to helping families on welfare benefits, Baker has called for more.
“A lot of households are already in the position of no heat and less to eat, and I really wish politicians would get it through their heads that some householders are really in a dire situation.”