As energy prices go through the roof, shocking figures reveal one in four families has been plunged into fuel poverty. Consumer Focus warns as many as 6 million could be forced to choose between a hot meal or heating their homes this winter.
Single parents are the hardest hit with 39% of mother or father and child households struggling to pay bills.
The figures are higher than the one in five first estimated and show for the first time wealthier families have also been hammered by spiralling fuel costs with 15% of middle classes now fuel poor.
Research from price comparison website uSwitch found the number would leap to one in three if housing costs were added in.
It means at least 18 million people are spending 10% or more of their take home pay on energy bills. Based on the new way of calculating fuel poverty, 47% of working class families and 22% of the middle classes fall into this bracket.
A quarter of families with a stay-at-home parent are fuel poor but uSwitch argues this figure would soar to 44% if mortgages or rents were included. The number of fuel poor single parent families would jump from 39% to 52% while pensioner numbers would rise from 33% to 36%.
According to the website, fuel bills have rocketed by 71% in the past five years rising from £660 a year in 2006 to £1,131 today.
And there’s worse to come as from next month, 2.4 million Scottish Power customers will be paying 10% more for electricity and 19% more for gas.
British Gas is expected to announce similar hikes ahead of parent company Centrica unveiling its results on July 28 with rivals following suit.
Consumer Focus warned as many as 6 million could be forced to choose between a hot meal or heating their homes this winter.
Nearly a quarter of UK households are facing fuel poverty as the price of gas and electricity continues to soar.
Some 6.3 million families are now classed as fuel poor after annual energy bills have jumped by an average of £500 over the past five years.
While fuel poverty has traditionally been a problem affecting low-income families, more affluent households are now struggling to meet the cost of their annual gas and electricity bill.
Some 15% of middle class families are now classed as fuel poor; meaning they spend at least 10% of their income on energy bills.
Fuel poverty levels are expected to rise to almost 9 million as utility companies pass on further increases in the cost of wholesale energy to their customers, according to research from uSwitch.com.
Single parent households continue to be the worst affected by fuel poverty, with 39% being classified as fuel poor.
A third of households with an income of up to £30,000 a year are in fuel poverty while 2% of families with an income of over £30,000 a year are fuel poor.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, says: “Rocketing energy prices mean that the middle classes are no longer immune to social ills such as fuel poverty. The fact is that we can now find the fuel poor amongst all walks of life and in all types of households. Start to factor in housing costs such as mortgage and rental payments and we are left with the shocking image of a third of all British households living in fuel poverty.
“The sad truth is that consumers are paying a heavy price for this country’s disjointed, incoherent and unaffordable energy policy.