A FAMILY claiming Universal Credit is having to choose between paying for food or their energy bills as the cost of living crisis continues to pummel Brits.
Heating and electricity costs have soared recently, and are expected to jump by another £600 within months.
This is because experts predict energy bills will rise by 51% when the price cap is reviewed by the energy regulator Ofgem, with any changes applied from April.
The crunch has meant that families are having to choose between heating or eating this winter – including Natasha and Gary Waterhouse.
Gary had to leave his job in the civil service to become Natasha's full-time carer, as a tumour which was removed from her spinal column has left her with damaged nerves and mobility issues.
It means they went from a household income in excess of £50,000 down to a carer's allowance of £67 a week and Universal Credit – and two of their three children are still in education.
The couple, who use an electricity metre, say their energy bills have gone up to £120-£140 a month.
With further price hikes looming in April, the couple said that any extra cost would be "totally unsustainable" for them to manage.
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That's even with the £140 warm home discount payment they get – and it comes as hard-up families are being urged to apply for the help now.
It has put the family in a "daunting" position, as they need to keep the house warmto prevent Natasha suffering more pain in her limbs.
Speaking to Sky news, Natasha said: "It's getting to the stage now where you ask yourself, do I pay for food or do I pay for heat?
"What do you do? It's a frightening prospect."
Soaring wholesale energy prices are to blame for the eye-watering bill hikes.
Some in the industry have branded the situation a "national crisis" and called on the government to step in.
Families will now find out in February how much the price cap will increase – and how much more they could be paying for their bills.
How to get help with your energy bills
Although the current advice is to stick on price-capped tariffs because the vast majority of fixed-rate deals are more expensive, there are other ways to cut your costs.
As well as the warm home discount, hard-up Brits might be eligible for cold weather payments.
That's when you get paid when temperatures go below zero for seven consecutive days – you'll get a £25 payment automatically within 14 days of the cold spell ending.
You can also get grants from energy companies.
Several suppliers – including British Gas Energy Trust – have schemes in help where you can apply for extra help including:
- Scottish Power Hardship Fund
- Ovo Debt and energy assistance
- E.on Energy Fund
- EDF Energy Customer Support Fund
There are also schemes local councils run you can apply to for help for heating costs.
Under the Household Support Fund, you can get free money to put towards your energy bills – The Sun has spotted some councils offering £140 in help.
While many councils run Welfare Assistance schemes – we revealed you could get up to £1,000 to put towards bills such as heating costs.
You can check with your local authority what help is available in your area – find out who your local council is using the gov.uk's council finder tool.
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