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Heating or Eating: Which Would You Choose?

By Katie Anderson on November 28, 2011

Just the mere thought is bad enough, but more and more people are having to choose between heating their homes or putting food on the table.

It’s hard to imagine the scenario, isn’t it. After all, we are living in the 21st century. But thanks to high levels of unemployment and shocking fuel costs, more and more vulnerable members of society are having to make that unimaginable choice.

The bleak situation facing the UK population as winter fast approaches has been highlighted by campaigners from Fuel Poverty Action Group. The group staged a ‘die-in’ protest outside the head offices of energy giant EDF Energy, which saw campaigners paint their lips blue and don layers of thick clothing to mirror what it’s like for the thousands of people who find themselves the victims of fuel poverty.

To highlight their cause, campaigners were armed with a wooden coffin – which had the  2010-11 winter deaths scrawled on it.

Fuelled by official statistics highlighting the fact that between 2010-11 there were 25,700 winter related deaths – 10% of which can be directly attributed to fuel poverty, according to National Energy Action (NEA) – campaigners adding their voice to the protest included pensioner Linda Powell.

“I’ve just become a pensioner and I’ve received my winter fuel allowance of £200, down from £250 thanks to the government. I am having to hold back on putting my central heating on, and do everything to cut back,” she said.

Thanks to high energy prices, poor heating and insulation and low household incomes, the choice between eating and heating is a very serious issue for millions of people, particularly pensioners. Last year was the coldest on record and high energy prices coupled with spells of severe weather will do nothing to help an already bleak situation get worse.

“I’m just about keeping going, to be honest,” said Ms Powell.

Calling on the Government to do more, the NEA said schemes like the upcoming Green Deal needs to deliver on its promise, particularly when it comes to heating the homes of society’s most vulnerable households.

Responding to the protest, EDF Energy said they were “committed to ensuring all of our customers get a fair deal over the winter period.

“So, going into the second successive winter, EDF Energy has the cheapest standard dual fuel prices of all the major energy suppliers, meaning a fairer deal for all of our customers.”