Northamptonshire pensioner tells of 'heating and eating' struggle as cost of living soars

A 71-year-old widow has told of the devastating personal impact of soaring fuel bills as she struggles to feed herself and heat her own home.

Carol Mitchell from Northampton has just two storage heaters in her house and to save on bills switches them for only a few hours a day.

Since her husband died two years ago, she has learned to live on as little as £15 a week once she has paid her bills.

"[I switch them on] only on very, very cold nights. I'll switch it on for half an hour before I go to bed just to take the chill off the room," she said.

As charities and consumer groups warn of further price rises to come and hardship looming for many in the same situation as her, Mrs Mitchell said she was dreading a price hike.

"I pay £150 a month direct debit, but now I owe them a backlog of £700. I can't pay any more than £150," she said.

"I get a bit down sometimes. I could spend all day in tears, sometimes because everything is overwhelming at times. You know, I just sometimes wish my husband was here to help me through it all."

Leonard says it is getting to the point where he can't manage Credit: ITV News Anglia

Mrs Mitchell is just one of millions in this situation.

Leonard White, 79, from St Ives in Cambridgeshire is living in food and fuel poverty. This Christmas his boiler packed up, leaving him without heating or hot water until he went to a local police station and asked for help on New Year's Day.

"I do struggle and I'm fearing for the winter months now when I've got to have the heating on more because I feel the cold more as I'm getting older," he said.

"It frightens me how I just couldn't manage last year. How the hell am I going to manage next year?" 

The Charity National Energy Action estimates the average heating bill will double when the energy price cap rises in April, pushing 1.5 million more households into fuel poverty. 

"It's going to be a big shock for every single household, but for some, that's an annoyance and a frustration. For some, it's an extra strain on a on on a budget. For many, it's catastrophic," said Adam Scorer, chief executive of National Energy Action.

Fuel poverty campaigners say more people will rely on food banks as bills soar Credit: ITV News Anglia

A major support for many is a food bank. The food aid service at Northampton's Sikh Community Centre and Youth Club, has become a huge operation,as volunteer Pindy Kaur told ITV News Anglia.

"With the increasing of energy bills, people will struggle even more, and I think they'll have to decide between paying the bills and actually buying food," she said. "So I am expecting a lot more people accessing the food bank for that reason."

For help and advice with energy bills follow the links below: