As energy prices rise again, a quarter of parents have cut back on the quantity of food to afford essentials

Energy bills image

As energy prices rise again, a quarter of parents have cut back on the quantity of food to afford essentials

  • YouGov survey by National Energy Action and the Food Foundation reveals 28% of parents say they have also cut back on the quality of food to afford essentials including energy bills
  • From 1 October, the average energy bill will have almost doubled since this time last year (end of September 2021) 

Contact: Anna Cook, Head of Communications ( Mobile: 07884 371913

Fuel Poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) and The Food Foundation have joined forces with a new survey and joint briefing to warn that energy price rises are harming children’s development this winter.

Our new survey of over 4,000 UK households, conducted by YouGov, reveals that one-quarter (24%) of parents have already cut back on the quantity of food to afford essentials such as their energy bills since the beginning of the year, while 28% say they have cut back on the quality. More than one in 10 parents (13%) have also eaten cold meals or ones that don’t require cooking to save money on energy bills.

This comes before gas and electricity bills are set to rise again, this Saturday [October 1]. Even with the energy price cap freeze announced by the government and support including a £400 grant, the average energy bill will have almost doubled since this time last year (the end of September 2021).

Figures from National Energy Action show that this means the number of UK households in fuel poverty will have still increased from 4.5 million last October to 6.7 million now. It also means the average annual energy bill will have increased from £1,271 to around £2,500 in a year. This increase is equivalent to almost one third of the amount a very low-income household with two adults and two children spends on food over one year.

Our survey also shows two thirds of all parents (67%) say they are worried that the increasing energy prices will mean they have less money to buy food for their household. More than half (51%) say they are worried about the coming winter and its impact on their family's health.

This comes after the Marmot report, published earlier this month [September 1], in which health experts said, “Epidemic-levels of fuel poverty affecting half of UK households will cause a ‘significant humanitarian crisis with thousands of lives lost and millions of children’s development blighted.”

Dominic Watters, a single dad who is in food and fuel poverty, even before the price increases, said: “I live in a fuel and food desert in the garden of England. The inequality we experience is demonstrated through the fuel and food poverty in this council estate. The poor have been in a cost of living crisis long before the term was popularised and now these fuel price rises are driving us deeper into despair. When the electric is on emergency I live in a state of emergency, not knowing if I’ll be able to cook the food, boil the kettle, wash my daughter’s uniform or even have a shower.”

Adam Scorer, chief executive at National Energy Action, says: “People have had to choose between heating and eating. This winter millions will not have even that choice. The most vulnerable, including children, will be cold and hungry as energy prices spiral, despite Government support. Energy bills almost doubling in a year is unaffordable for millions and our survey shows people are already cutting back on the quality of what they eat as well as the quantity. The impacts on health and wellbeing are devastating and will only get worse after Saturday’s price rises. It’s a public health emergency. More targeted and enduring support, like an energy social tariff, is crucial if the most vulnerable are to get through winter warm and fed.”

Laura Sandys, chair and founder of The Food Foundation, says: “For this winter, it may no longer be a question of heating or eating for many households; the cost-of-living crisis and energy bill increases will see children living in homes where there is no longer that choice – they will both go hungry and be cold. Government must support low-income families to ensure that children can be warm and well-fed. The implications of not addressing this double whammy will last longer than the winter, with children’s physical, mental and academic growth stunted, impacting those with the least most.”

Professor Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, and Past President of the World Medical Association, says: “Hungry and cold is not just a miserable way for a child to spend the winter, it is bad for mental and physical health. It is a soluble problem but will take vigorous government action. What could be more important for a rich country than this."

Notes to editors

The joint briefing between National Energy Action and The Food Foundation can be found here.

NEA and The Food Foundation are asking for the government to take five urgent actions:

  • Boost incomes by increasing Universal Credit and other legacy benefits in line with inflation
  • Introduce a new social tariff to lower the cost of energy bills for low-income households
  • Reduce needless energy consumption by enhancing investment in domestic energy efficiency
  • The Healthy Start scheme should be urgently expanded and strengthened
  • All children living in households receiving Universal Credit should receive Free School Meals 3.

All figures from the YouGov survey are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,280 UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21 September–23 September 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults 18+.

About National Energy Action

National Energy Action, the fuel poverty charity, campaigns so everyone can afford to live in a warm and safe home. This is something denied to millions because of poor housing, low incomes, and high bills. Working across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, everything they do aims to improve the lives of people in fuel poverty. They directly support people with energy and income maximisation advice and advocate on issues including improving the energy efficiency of our homes.

About The Food Foundation

The Food Foundation’s mission is changing food policy and business practice to ensure everyone, across the UK nations, can afford and access a healthy diet. They are policy entrepreneurs and use surprising and inventive ideas to catalyse and deliver fundamental change in the food system by building and synthesising strong evidence, shaping powerful coalitions, harnessing citizens’ voices and driving progress with impactful communications. 5. In 2000, UK-wide legislation first defined a person living in fuel poverty as “a member of a household living on a lower income in a home which cannot be kept warm at reasonable cost”. Whilst an understanding of fuel poverty is still broadly consistent across the four nations of the UK, it is now measured in different ways in some UK nations. NEA bases its projections on the 10% of a household's income as the definition of fuel poverty as it gives a realistic picture of the scale of fuel poverty in periods of more volatile energy prices. For more information visit: The Food Foundation defines food insecurity (sometimes referred to as food poverty) as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Dominic Watters tweets as @SingleDadSW

Thanks to our funders

I am looking for...