More than half of Britons are reducing their use of gas and electricity at home due to the worsening cost of living crisis, which is hitting vulnerable groups, including pensioners and people with disabilities, the hardest.
An estimated 24million people in Britain, or 51% of the population, used less gas and electricity between March 30 and June 19, according to research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) looking at how people were reacting to the crisis. People aged 55 to 74 were the most likely to reduce their energy consumption.
Charities have warned that the scale of rising bills means many low-income households will have to choose between eating and heating their homes this winter.
“These are truly desperate times, and millions of people have been forced into desperate action,” said Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
“While we all face the pain of rising prices, it is low-income people, renters, people with disabilities and those in the most deprived areas who face impossible challenges,” he said. she adds.
Energy costs have risen sharply following the invasion of Ukraine and are expected to rise sharply again in the fall when the new price cap on household bills comes into effect.
A recent update from analysts at Cornwall Insight predicted that in October the energy price cap will drop to £3,244 per year before rising to £3,363 in January. The price, set quarterly by energy sector regulator Ofgem, is already at an all-time high of £1,971 a year, with the next price cap due to be published this month.
The ONS report paints a grim picture of the lifestyle changes being made to deal with the financial crisis. Rising food, fuel and energy costs forced 16 million people to cut back on essential purchases such as groceries, it found, while nearly a quarter, or 11 millions of people, dip into their savings to cover their living expenses. About 6 million people said they were using more credit than usual to get by.
Worryingly, research found that people with disabilities were more likely than the rest of the population to have reduced their spending on food and basic necessities because their cost of living had risen, with four in 10 reducing in this domain.
Just under half of those earning between £10,000 and £15,000 had specifically cut back on their diet, as had around half of renters. People in the most deprived areas of England were also more likely to have reduced their spending on food and basic necessities, the data shows.
However, soaring inflation means a growing number of people, including those on higher incomes, are tightening their belts, with 57% of the population cutting back on non-essential spending, such as clothing, subscriptions and restaurant meals.