UK's poorest faced with stark choices amid extreme weather conditions

helping our community

As sub-zero temperatures and snow and ice continue to batter the UK, new insight from Cadent highlights how people in low-income households are missing meals and turning their heating off to try and keep their heads above water.
  • Almost 7 in 10 (68%) of the 2,001 low-income respondents said they are more worried about higher living costs than they were last year.
  • Three quarters (75%) of those surveyed said they are already struggling[1] to pay household bills, with the main causes of concern being energy bills (71%), food (56%) and council tax (40%).
  • 87 per cent of respondents are cutting back on essentials[2], with 42 per cent keeping their heating off despite extreme weather, with some parts of the country faring better than others.
  • Over half (52%) of those surveyed said they don’t know where to go for help, but dedicated support is available, says Cadent.
As the UK faces the coldest snap in more than a decade, new research from Cadent, the UK’s largest gas distribution network, has revealed how 75 per cent of people surveyed on low incomes are struggling1 to make ends meet, with people in the 25-34 year old age bracket (89%) being the worst affected.

Fatema, a single mum of three said: “Since the cost-of-living crisis, I’ve struggled with essentials such as food and uniforms for my children. But more recently, I was hit with a huge household bill, and I had no way to pay it. I was terrified!”

The research, conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Cadent, surveyed just over 2,000 people from low-income households across the country, to assess how people are coping with ongoing higher living costs. The toll is mounting and the report shows that Fatema is not the only one experiencing serious financial difficulties.

Almost nine in ten (87%) people surveyed are making adjustments to save money[3], with the main cutbacks being made on social spend (59%), heating (50%) and food (46%), but stretched to their limit and with no end in sight, some are making worrying decisions.

42 per cent of respondents have not turned their heating on at all this winter and alarmingly, this figure rises to almost 50 per cent (49%) amongst 45 - 54-year-olds surveyed. There are also huge regional disparities, with respondents in Manchester more likely to cope without heating (46%), despite being statistically colder than the south of England (Greater London 32%).

25-34 year olds surveyed are also most likely to skip meals (40% vs 27% average) and elderly respondents (aged 60+) are more likely to turn the heating down than non-elderly respondents (70% vs 62%).

Over 50 per cent (52%) of the respondents said they don’t know where to go for help if they can’t afford to pay their household bills and Cadent is urging people to speak with their utility supplier if they are struggling to pay their energy bills.

Fatema visited the Bonny Downs Community Centre in East Ham, which receives funding as part of Cadent’s Centres for Warmth programme to support families worst hit by escalating costs.

She explains: “The Bonny Downs Community Centre has been a genuine lifeline for me. I don’t know where I’d be without the support, the centre has helped me so much. The team helped with essentials such as food and when I was hit with an unexpected bill, they have been able to help me get it paid.”

Mark Belmega, Director of Sustainability and Social Purpose, said: “The higher cost-of-living continues to take a staggering toll on Fatema and other low-income households across the country. Thankfully Fatema found the help she needed at one of our Centres for Warmth and the message we want to share with others is that help is available.

Our website is packed with easy-to-follow money saving tips and information to help our customers make savings safely, but the support goes far beyond this and includes debt and benefit advice – just take the first step and get in touch.”

If you are feeling anxious or stressed about higher living costs, Cadent’s partner, Shout, offers 24/7, free, confidential support from a trained mental health advisor. Text WARMTH to 85258 to speak to an advisor.
 
[1] ‘I am struggling a lot’ and ‘I am struggling a little’ answers combined.
[2] Inverse of ‘NA I have not made any sacrifices when it comes to general living costs’ (12.69%)
[3] Inverse of ‘NA I have not made any sacrifices when it comes to general living costs’ (12.69%).
Research methodology
The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 2,001 respondents (aged 18+) in low-income households in the UK. (Low-income households being defined as a personal income below £25,000 and a household income of £40,000 or lower). The data was collected between 15.12.2023 – 22.12.2023. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
 

Cadent

Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Future of Gas: Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

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Media contacts

Louise Day

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