Forced to choose between a shower or food - the reality of the rising cost of living

  • Watch Claire Manning's report

The cost of living is rising and for many the uncertainty of how to afford it is growing too.

A new report out today (January 18) looking at poverty across the UK says rising energy bills will be devastating if the price cap ends in April.

It is a worrying scenario for families - and now two people from Cornwall and Bristol have shared their concerns to show how rising costs will have a huge detrimental impact on them.

Tash Danieux says every day she has to make a choice - whether to turn her heating on or have a hot shower or use her oven. She can't afford to do all these things.

Tash Danieux

For Tash, worrying about paying her energy bills is an everyday reality.

"I have to choose whether my hygiene comes first before I eat or whether I put the heating on for half an hour and don't use the oven as often that week."

Tash says currently she spends about £170 a month on energy bills. She says she is 'very worried' about the costs rising in April and does not know if she will be able to afford it.

On Tuesday (January 18) Tash went to Cornish charity DISC to get money to help pay her energy bills.

DISC, which helps people struggling to pay bills, says it does not know how many people are going to manage over the next few months. Staff say they have seen the numbers of families coming in for help treble in recent weeks.

Monique Collins, who runs the charity, has been keeping a log - this week alone 1,560 people in Newquay have been given money by DISC to help pay their energy bills.

Monique Collins from DISC with Tash

"These are not people who are all on benefits, these are working people," she said. "These are families where mum and dad work and they still can't make ends meet, it is like being back in war days."

She added: "Our government really needs to start working with energy providers and see how they can help or even how they can put money back into the voluntary sector like ourselves so that we can actually find those people and help those people to stay in their properties.

"Because people are going to land themselves in endless amounts of debt if this is not dealt with immediately and this is a massive worry to me."

Come April, most people will see their energy bills rise sharply when a new energy price cap - which sets a maximum energy firms can charge customers on a standard tariff - takes effect. A new cap may allow home bills to rise as much as 50 per cent.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation which works to solve UK poverty, says more support must be given to the poorest in our society to help meet those costs.

About 15 million households will see their energy prices rise after regulator Ofgem hiked price caps designed to protect those on poor value Credit: PA

"What we are calling for is the government to announce emergency support that is targeted on low income families, they could do that via what is called the warm homes discount if that policy is reformed to make sure more people are eligible and scale it up or they could do that through putting more money in our social security system."

New analysis from the foundation shows that households on low incomes will be spending on average 18% of their income after housing costs on energy bills after April. 

For single adult households on low incomes this rises to a shocking 54%.

And in Bristol, a third of children are growing up in poverty where families struggle to afford food, bills and other essentials.

Many more people are turning to foodbanks and charities for help - they say demand has increased five fold during the pandemic and fear it will keep going up.

Heather Windows has used the North Bristol Foodbank since October last year.

Heather Windows heading to her local foodbank

"It’s ridiculous, the money I normally get once a fortnight, I put my money on my (electric) key and that usually lasts a fortnight," Heather said.

"But this fortnight it’s gone three or four times. I’ve got to rob Peter to pay Paul to put some electric on. Or put some money back on the gas card because I’ve got no heating. Something’s got to give somewhere. Someone’s not going to get paid.

"It’s really worrying. I don’t know what’s going to happen in April when it goes up. I haven’t got a clue. I don’t know who has decided to put the costs up. Or are they supplying candles?"

Emma Murray

Emma Murray founded the foodbank. She said: "We’re already feeling the impact of the price rises. It’s driving more demand for the foodbank. People have just got a real fear. And it’s not just our foodbank clients, it’s all my staff, my friends, everyone I meet. We’re feeling very anxious about what’s going to happen."