Energy bills: Teen carer quits school to help family make ends meet as living costs soar

Video report by ITV Wales Cost of Living correspondent Carole Green

A teenager from Gwynedd has been forced to drop out of her A-levels in order to help make time for more work amid the cost of living crisis.

Energy regulator Ofgem announced on Friday that the energy price cap will increase by more than 80% to £3,549 from October 1.

The change will mean that householders on a typical default tariff will pay an extra £1,578 a year for their gas and electricity.

The increasing cost of bills has already forced many people into difficult decisions with reports of people leaving work as they are unable to make ends meet.

Now, as teenagers across Wales look set to return to schools and colleges from next week, some face difficult choices about whether they can afford to continue their education.

Beca has decided against studying A-levels

Beca Williams, from Deiniolen in Gwynedd, has decided against continuing to study her A-levels full time, opting instead to look for an apprenticeship in hospitality so she can earn and learn at the same time.

The 17-year-old cares for her younger sibling along with her older brother Gwion and her mum Delyth in their family home.

"I need to be able to provide for myself now instead of relying on other to provide for me," Beca told ITV News.

"It's hard for me to ask someone 'can I borrow this?' or 'can I borrow that?' because I know how hard it is at the moment for people just to fend for themselves let alone other people.

"Mum, dad, other family members, it's affecting everybody at the moment."

Beca's brother has felt the pressure of having to help his family's finances since turning 18.

Beca's brother Gwion is also on the hunt for a second job as he keeps up with the cost of running a car, juggling volunteer work and duties at home.

The 18-year-old, who coaches basketball locally, said he has felt the pressure of having to help his family's finances since turning 18.

"There’s a lot of pressure now because I’m at the age of 18. I need to pay bills, I need to do more for myself basically," he said.

"I’ve got a job in Bethesda, I work there and I’m trying to get a second job so I can have money coming in to look after myself.

“I need my car to get to work and finding that money is pretty hard. My goal is just to get more money coming in, so I can help the family.

“With the financial situation in this house, me and Bec are working but we are trying to look after the whole family but mum does go through a lot of pressure.”

'Life is all about making memories and living, but you don’t get to do that any more'

Delyth relies on her children to help with caring duties for her youngest child.

The family are receiving support from the chairty Acton For Children, but mum Delyth Williams told ITV Cymru Wales price rises over the last year have made even doing the most basic of family things near impossible.

"I’ve not been able to do much with the kids over the summer," she said.

"Before we would have at leats a weekend away, but we’ve not been able to do that this summer.

“That’s what’s difficult. It’s all about making memories and living, but you don’t get to do that any more.

“We don’t have mains gas, so we can’t change companies for a better deal, we can’t join our gas and electric.

“It is really worrying going into winter, you have to have the heating on.”

Brigitte Gater, national director for Acton For Children in Wales, said: "The worst pain and misery of the cost of living crisis is being felt by children in low income families, yet the UK Government is refusing to target help for these children.

"The levels of severe and persistent financial hardship our services are seeing are among the worst they can remember and are robbing too many children of the bright futures they deserve. Whilst our Crisis Fund can help to relieve some of these pressures, it cannot address the underlying causes driving rising deprivation or offer a solution for families bearing the brunt of this deep-rooted cost of living crisis.

"The Welsh Government needs to ensure no stone is left unturned in helping those families in the greatest need with the powers it has.  There is some help available, and every effort needs to be made to make that financial help easily accessible.

She continued, saying: "The UK Government committed to using the tax and benefit system to reduce child poverty in its 2019 election manifesto². And yet, with inflation set to reach its highest level for four decades this year, the policy responses introduced by the government to date will not do nearly enough to support low-income families.

"We desperately need a cross-government plan to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty in the UK, but we can start today by guaranteeing benefits keep pace with the cost of living and target help to children in low income families through a rise in the child element of Universal Credit. There is so much more our government can do in these tough times to prevent those with the least from continuing to suffer the most.”

Around 45 million people in the UK could be thrown into fuel poverty this winter, according to a study from the University of York.

Current predictions also forecast further rises in January and April next year.

Based on Wednesday’s gas prices, experts at consultancy Auxilione think the cap will reach £5,210 in January 2023 and £6,823 by April.

Then they predict it will fall, but only to £6,106 in July and £5,668 next October.