The UK Health and Security Agency has issued a cold weather alert recommending vulnerable people warm their homes to at least 18C, wear extra layers and eat hot food to protect themselves from plummeting temperatures.
But some 710,000 households are unable to heed the advice as they cannot pay for warm clothing, heating and food, according to analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
‘People are being forced to wager their financial health and whether they can afford more debt, against their wellbeing without sufficient heat, clothing or hot food,’ Rachelle Earwaker, JRF senior economist says.
The survey of 4,251 people in the bottom 40% of incomes also found that around 4.3 million curbed their spending on heating ahead of the cold spell. The survey was conducted from October 31 to November 25.
Freezing weather means they face the impossible decision over whether to take on more debt to heat their home to the level recommended by health professionals.
Rachelle Earwaker, senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “The Government must see that families won’t be able to get through the winter on the current levels of support.
‘For hundreds of thousands of households it’s not a choice between putting the heating on or not. Our research shows they can’t afford anything recommended to protect themselves from the effects of plummeting temperatures.
‘We’re still experiencing historically high inflation and the prices of essentials are still soaring. Energy bills, while capped, are still almost double what they were last winter. Housing shortages, rising rents and mortgage payments are overburdening budgets across the country.’
The Foundation is urging the Government to change Universal Credit and increase the basic rate of support.