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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Thomas Kingsley and Furvah Shah

Pensioner, 80, says she would be ‘better off dead’ than trying to cope with soaring winter energy bills

PA Wire/PA Images

A pensioner said she would be “better off dead” than trying to cope with soaring energy bills.

Sheila Correll, 80, from Lincolnshire said she showers less, washes some clothes by hand and has cut out luxuries in an attempt to save money on gas and electric bills but now says pensioners can not go on.

The energy price cap will increase 80 per cent from the current £1,971 to £3,549 on 1 October, regulator Ofgem has announced.

Sheila Correll said she has to wash some clothes by hand to save on bills (PA Wire/PA Images)

The pensioner, who receives £184-a-week and currently pays £96 a month on her gas bill said the coming increases will make her situation “impossible.”

“I was absolutely petrified,” Ms Correll told The Independent when she saw the price cap announcement. “It’s devastating news, we can’t cope with increases like that on our low pensions. It’s a matter of heating or eating but now it’s a matter of not being able to do either of those things.

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Ms Correll, who relies on a little wood burner to keep warm, said many other pensioners will be frightened by the announcement.

“As a pensioner we’re very limited in what we can do anyway and a lot of us would discover we’re better off dead to be honest,” Ms Correll said.

“I have to make things last twice as long and there’s no room for any luxuries whatsoever. I’m cutting down on everything from using the shower to using the cooker, to using the vacuum cleaner and washing. I’m doing some of the washing by hand to cut down on electricity.

“I’ve cut out everything. When you get to my age you need a few treats, but now we haven’t got anything left over - what is life going to be like?

“This whole thing is absolutely horrendous. Never in my 80 years have I seen anything as bad as this,” she added.

Joseph Seager said he works in cafes as it is cheaper than heating his home (Supplied)

Ms Correll said she hasn’t got hope in the government to provide adequate support for people struggling in the crisis.

Consumer champion Martin Lewis warned that people will die this winter due to soaring energy bills and urged the government to intervene urgently to provide help.

“I worry terribly for some of those who have disabled children or disabilities themselves who need lots of electrical equipment to keep their houses warm because of medical conditions,” Mr Lewis said.

Despite helping others save on their bills, personal finance expert Joseph Seager, 33, said energy bills are “unpayable.”

Jayne Gale said she is working three jobs to support her family (Supplied)

“Our central heating got switched off April and I doubt it will go on again until at least November,” Mr Seager, who runs consumer advice platform Thrifty Chap, told The Independent.

“When it does, it will merely take the edge off in one room, extra blankets on beds, extra layers being worn etc. I work from home and I'm self-employed, so I'm looking at trying to support local businesses by working from cafes instead if turning the heating on.

“A filter coffee and slice of toast will be cheaper than heating at home.”

Martin Lewis said the price cap increase is a catastrophe (PA)

Jayne Gale, a council worker and cancer sufferer from Killingholme said energy price rises feel like “economic genocide.”

“I already restricted our energy usage last winter. Two hours in the morning before school, two hours at night. I will probably drop that this winter,” the single mother told The Independent.

“One of my jobs I work at home for seven hours. I used a blanket last winter. I will probably go into the office at the community centre and use their electric fire.

“It feels like this government are applying economic genocide to me,” she added.

Jason Alcock, 51, from Stoke-on-Trent, who has autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder, said he was “shocked” by the energy price cap rise and feared for people “on the breadline” where he lives.

“It's crazy,” he said. “There's absolutely no way people can afford this kind of price rise. I'm shocked by it.”

“I thought they would have pulled back on it. I thought we wouldn't have this, what they call 'zombie government' with no-one in charge.

“We're coming up to winter now. When winter starts and people can't put their heating on... I'll be heating one room in my house, but people have got children.

The bills of around 24 million households are decided by the price cap. (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)

“I've cancelled my direct debit for both gas and electric because they were saying I should pay something like £300 a month to cover it. So I said screw that, and cancelled it,” he continued.

“And instead I set up a standing order, and I pay £75 into my electric and £25 into my gas per month, and I know at the end of the year there's going to be a big bill but that's what I can comfortably afford with other cost of living rises like the food shop and that, which has got to come first.”

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said three times more people have come to the charity because they can’t top up their pre-payment meter.

“I think it is worth acknowledging we are facing a crisis already that’s greater than what we saw in the pandemic,” Ms Moriarty said. “We had 13,000 people come to us for help because they can’t top up their pre-payment meter.

Without immediate help for households “the soundtrack to winter will be the beeping of emergency prepayment meter credit running out,” she added.

“One of our West Midlands advisors was telling me about a woman that came to see them. She’s got a chronic health condition and needs to be kept warm but she’s so terrified of getting into debt she said she’d rather sit in pain rather than turn the heating on when the weather gets colder.

“We need a plan not platitudes. Government support has to match the scale of this crisis, there must be a financial lifeline for those who need it most.”

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