Fuel Poverty: 'It's just too much, it's a constant worry' says South Tyneside single mum
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A single mother from South Tyneside has told ITV News Tyne Tees that she does not know how she will cope when energy bills rise again in October.
Nichola Thomas, who lives in South Shields with her three children, said she has already had to cut down on her electricity use and has been forced to seek help from a local charity with only 53 pence left on her energy meter.
She said: "Before I was putting £10 on, but currently at the minute I’m putting £20 on.
"£6 of that is coming off the standing charge, but when it goes up I don’t know how we are going to cope. It’s just too much. It’s just a constant worry."
Nichola is not alone. At the Key Project fuel bank - where she has applied for an energy voucher to help her pay the gas and electricity in the coming weeks - they have said demand is increasing for emergency support before the bills rise in October.
Jo Benham-Brown from the Key Project said: "There are more and more people everyday turning up to use the fuel bank when they have ran out of money to put on their credit meter for gas or electricity.
"It means that they are unable to turn the television on, turn the lights on, they certainly can’t heat their homes."
She added: "My fears are that people will be left without food and without heating.
"We’re already talking to people who are talking about rationing food, rationing heating.
"I think people are going to be forced into situations where they make decisions that are potentially endangering their health."
A report published on Thursday 1 September by the UCL Institute of Health Equity (IHE) has suggested 55 per cent of households will be in fuel poverty by January.
It added that 10 per cent of excess deaths in England are directly related to fuel poverty, and that more than 20 per cent are attributable to cold homes.
Report author, Professor Sir Michael Marmot said: "There are going to be more people dying as a result of the cold and more children whose physical development and mental illness will be impacted by growing up cold."
A spokesman for the government said it is aware people are "incredibly worried" about energy prices and that it is delivering £37 billion to help them pay bills.
He added: "As the public would rightly expect, we are working closely with the NHS to ensure we are ready for extra pressures this winter, including providing an extra £79 million last year to significantly expand our mental health services, enabling more children and young people to get help."