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Children suffering in cold houses

23 January 2015

iSTOCK

AT LEAST 800,000 children in the UK are living in homes that their parents cannot afford to heat. Their parents are forced to choose between warmth and buying food, a new report from the Children's Society suggests.

The report, Show Some Warmth: Exposing the damaging impact of energy debt on children, also found that children whose parents were in debt to energy companies were three times more likely to have been ill last winter than other children, and their homes were three times more likely to suffer from damp or mould. And nearly half of children whose parents have been in debt to energy companies miss out on having a hot meal every day, the survey of 2500 families shows.

The charity's report, published yesterday, accuses energy companies of "damaging debt practices", and not taking time to explore the situation of individual families properly, in order to work out the best repayment scheme for debts. Four in ten parents surveyed said that they felt intimidated, or that the supplier was aggressive in their approach.

Another charity, Turn2us, which helps families to obtain grants, said that its research showed that three-quarters of low-income families were struggling to pay heating bills, and 61 per cent of them were cutting back on food as a result.

Three gas suppliers - Scottish Power, British Gas, and E.ON -announced price cuts this week, although those by Scottish Power and British Gas will be deferred.

The price cuts of between 3.5 and five per cent follow a fall in wholesale gas prices of about 20 per cent since the end of November. Consumer groups have said that suppliers should discount more heavily.

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