Call for emergency fuel payment
A charity has called for an emergency £100 winter fuel payment for low-income families, after a poll found that 35% of adults fear not being able to pay energy bills.
Soaring energy prices were top of the nation's financial fears for the new year in the poll carried out for families charity 4Children.
The charity's chief executive Anne Longfield said that Government changes to welfare support - including the 1% cap on benefit upratings announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the Autumn Statement - are disproportionately penalising families.
With the Government's own Fuel Policy Advisory Group recently warning that 300,000 more households were in fuel poverty this Christmas than at the same time last year, she said that a £100 emergency payment could help low-income families keep warm.
Delivering a winter fuel payment to 990,000 workless families and 1.93 million in receipt of both working tax credit and child tax credit would cost the Chancellor £292 million and cover 20% of the average family gas and electricity bill between December and February, she said.
The YouGov poll found that 73% of those questioned fear how they will be affected by the rising cost of living in 2013. Energy bills topped the list of concerns, followed by rising petrol prices at 13%, rent or mortgage payments at 12% and food shopping at 10%.
Some 27% said they were concerned about the effect of capped, frozen or reduced salaries, while 22% were worried about personal debt, 20% about welfare changes, unemployment and local services, and 13% about redundancy.
Ms Longfield said: "These figures show the stark reality that many children may be living in freezing homes this winter, as concerns over soaring energy costs take hold. It is imperative that emergency action is taken by Government to negotiate a fairer deal with the energy market, with immediate support for low-income families to help them meet imminent fuel costs.
"Families are telling us that their finances simply will not stretch any further. For many families, the gap between household income and financial outgoings has become dangerously wide, with many middle as well as low-income families facing mounting personal debt and financial hardship.
"If we fail to offer families a lifeline now, our economy and society will pay a hefty price in the future if faced with a legacy of poverty, debt and family crisis."
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