A mother of three has said she now takes her children to bed at 6pm to keep warm as they can’t afford heating.
Chantelle Stroud, 33, is without electricity – and has just £8 on her gas meter.
Chantelle and her family – two children under five and a teenager – not only go to bed as soon as it gets dark, but also go to their mothers for food and warmth, the Mirror reports.
She said: “I go to bed with the kids at six to keep warm.
“We’ve been sick for weeks, my eldest since before Christmas, the doctor says she has a problem with her lungs. Your bedroom is freezing.”
She said the house they rent is big, old and difficult to keep warm.
Stevie Pettitt is a Fuel and Water Advisor for Seashells, a local family charity whose mission is to arrange emergency fuel vouchers provided by the Fuel Bank Foundation for people unable to top up their gas and electricity prepayment meters.
She said: “I feel like I’m putting a band-aid on a gash. It’s heartbreaking, you can hear the devastation in their voices saying “I’m cold”.
“People will ask for food they don’t need to cook, they wear dressing gowns over their clothes, they make bottled tea so they don’t use the kettle.
“It’s gotten to the point where I’m just doing that and nothing else.”
Ofgem’s announcement for most households this week means an annual increase in the bill of £693 to £1,971 a year.
For those using prepaid meters, many in private rental and council housing, that increase will average £708 to £2,017.
Valued at £49, fuel vouchers were originally designed to have an average lifespan of 10 days, but are now barely enough for a week for many – and donations are limited to three per household.
Stevie has been spending 185 since mid-November.
The Fuel Bank Foundation has 149 centers across the UK giving out around 500 vouchers a day, down from 100-200 a year ago.
The Sheppey Support Bus follows a route that visits people who need help.
Deborah Clay, 48, of Sheerness-on-Sea, the nearest bus stop, has been without gas since Christmas Eve.
A former baker and pastry chef struggling with poor health and living alone, she ran up energy debt and agreed to switch to a prepayment meter and pay off that debt incrementally from each charge.
But on Christmas Eve when she put up £10 for petrol there was an error and it didn’t register. She had nothing more to add.
Struggling to reach her utility company on her phone within minutes, she struggled with only electricity and then developed pneumonia. She was afraid to invest more money and lose it.
Her voucher will pay off her debt and her rental fee, which has increased even though she hasn’t used any gas. And the energy company, finally caught up, is brushing off the lost 10 pounds.
“I borrowed an electric fire with a pole and slept on the sofa,” she said. “I’ve boiled the kettle to wash dishes, I shower maybe once a week, it sounds shabby. For cooking I used the microwave and a stove on the stovetop.”
William and Susan Bunce sit in the dark.
Susan, 62, is caring for William, 61, who has had a mini-stroke, angina and recently pleurisy twice. He feels the cold painfully.
Susan spends £20 on electricity and £20 on gas every two weeks. It will not reach the end of this time. It usually takes an extra ten from her foster allowance to get her through.
Only in the living room does the heating run for half an hour in the morning and an hour at night – “and on some days not at all”.
“We’re not sitting with the lights on now,” she says. “There’s a street lamp outside.
“We used to shower every day, now it’s twice a week. That gets me down sometimes.”
Another woman, a mother in her 20s, who asked not to be named, said she regularly chooses electricity over gas so she can support her two children.
Today she has about £2 left on petrol, £1 on electricity.
She’s looking for a job, her universal credit isn’t due until the end of this month.
“I borrow from friends, it’s a constant loop of questioning,” she said.
“I take electricity so we can eat, I’ve been without gas for a week.
“As soon as the children come home from school, they put on their dressing gowns and sit down with blankets. When it’s sunny I let them run around outside, it’s warmer.”