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Thousands of poor British families forced to live without heat, light or food

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-04-20 18:51

LONDON - Nearly 400,000 people in Britain are forced to live in homes without electricity or gas because they could not afford to pay for fuel, a report by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) said Friday.

In a second report Friday the Living Wage Foundation said a third of working parents on low incomes in Britain regularly go without meals, because of a lack of money, with half of those families falling behind with household bills.

New research from CAB found that 140,000 households did not have enough money to top up prepayment meters (PPM) for gas or electricity.

CAB said the vast majority of these households (120,000) have people living there who may be particularly vulnerable to being without heat and power, such as a child or someone with a long-term health condition. A young child lived in a third of the homes forced to self-disconnect because they did not have money to pay for a top-up.

Half of those surveyed said that self-disconnection had negative physical and emotional impacts, with 60 percent saying they were left in cold homes, and 43 percent said they were left without lights. More than a third said they weren't able to wash while 17 percent said they felt ashamed or embarrassed.

The bureau called in its new report for a series of measures to ensure potentially vulnerable households at risk of self-disconnection are more easily identified, and prevented from having to deal with the effects of living in cold and dark homes.

The CAB cited one of its clients, a male living alone, who told them: "Imagine, if you put yourself in your home and you've got no electric and you've got no gas so you've got no heating. You've got no entertainment, there's nothing to do. You're just sitting there waiting for the next day to come or until you can contact somebody. You feel depressed, you feel anxious, feel annoyed - all sorts of emotions."

Gillian Guy, the CAB's chief executive, said: "It unacceptable that so many vulnerable households are being left without heat and light. For many self-disconnection is an extremely stressful experience that can have harmful physical and emotional effects.

"We need better mechanisms to identify vulnerable customers, better coordination between suppliers and government agencies and we need suppliers to ensure that when people's health is at risk alternative ways to pay are offered."

A second survey Friday by the Living Wage Foundation (LWF) found the poorest working families in Britain struggle to put food on the table.

LWF said 37 percent of working parents on low incomes regularly skip meals due to a lack of money, and almost half have fallen behind on household bills.

Their survey revealed more than one in five families took out high-interest pay-day loans to buy essential purchases.

LWF director Tess Lanning said:" The findings reveal the desperate choices low paid families have to make, and show why it's so important that more employers take a stand by paying the real Living Wage, based on what they need to live, not just the government minimum."

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