Sky News follows the lives of three families, all facing a severe winter ahead. When energy and food bills rise, they say they fear the next few months.
Jackie & Jason
Jackie lives with her partner Jason and their three children — Skyler, seven, Kayde, six and four-year-old Marshall.
She worked several jobs before the pandemic hit, but had to leave work to care for her terminally ill mother.
Jackie is now keeping a close eye on how much electricity and gas she uses since prices rose earlier in the week.
Ofgem, energy regulators, raised the price ceiling so companies could charge their customers more. It is an emergency measure in light of the global increase in gas demand.
Jackie has a meter in the kitchen and it flashes to show that she is now in her emergency supply.
“Everything goes up,” she said.
“The cost of living, the gas, the electricity, the food. I feel it already.”
She is not alone. Gas and electricity are rising to 15 million families as the ceiling on their tariffs rises.
The stove has been broken for a year, so meals have been prepared using a hob.
Jackie and Jason have applied for a grant from the local council in hopes that they can buy a new one.
“It’s not just the pandemic. It’s all,” Jackie said.
“I lost my job and it’s been horrible. It’s been really frustrating. It’s hard work living in poverty. I was poor before the pandemic. Nothing changed. Nothing is going to change.”
Helen & Freya
Helen is a postwoman and lives just outside Bristol with her eight-year-old daughter, Freya.
She is dependent on Universal Credit and is losing £ 20 a week now that the government has the exaltation ended which began in the beginning of the pandemic.
The government has promised to increase access to well-paid jobs and support people to improve their skills as part of the leveling plan.
Helen said, “I’m qualified. I have skills. But find me this job that’s going to jump me so high I’d suddenly get out of Universal Credit.
“I’ve been looking at it. I have to take a significant amount home and I do not know where these jobs are.
“The government says they are cutting back on Universal Credit lifts so they can create more jobs. What are these jobs? What are these skills?
“I was already fighting before the pandemic to keep track of things.
“The rise was actually like someone chopping me a life jacket for me. I was really glad we could bob together like that and just get by. It feels like someone blew up that jacket.”
Robert & Laura
Robert, Laura and their two children – Dylan, three and Lacey -Jane, one – are heading into winter with bills piling up around them.
Robert’s part-time job as a security guard has dried up, and a mix of their services, through no fault of their own, has left them penniless.
They are behind on their rent and energy bills and are becoming more dependent on packed lunches as the weeks go by.
Robert said: “It’s been a nightmare, a complete nightmare. I’ve struggled to try to sort out the situation. We’re just trying to keep it together for the kids.
“I do my best just to stay calm and just take each day as it comes and not get stressed. But it’s hard.
The family is assisted by Citizens Advice Derbyshire.
“Robert and his family are in a terrible situation these winter months. They have lost four weeks of their tax deduction money and it was not their fault,” said adviser Ghazala Darr.
“They are in arrears in rent and they cannot afford to buy food or heat their homes. The increase in energy costs will be a big problem for them.”
A government spokesman said: “Our job plan will provide more high wages, highly skilled jobs in all parts of the UK and ultimately support people back in work as well as help those already employed to move on and earn more .
“The energy price cap will remain in place to protect millions of customers from sudden increases, vulnerable households across the country will have access to a new £ 500 million fund to help them with the essentials in the coming months and Universal Credit will continue to deliver crucial support. “