More than a quarter of households in the South East are concerned they will have to go without gas or electricity for a period of time this winter, a YouGov poll suggests.
Research conducted for fuel company npower has shown that almost half (45 per cent) of households in the region will cut down on using heating and one third of those households will make this choice every day during winter.
Slightly more than one in ten (11 per cent) households will have fewer hot showers or baths, while 13 per cent intend to reduce the amount of hot water they use for washing up or washing clothes.
Despite the heat or eat dilemma being widespread, 56 per cent of those surveyed from the South East said they were unaware of any financial help or advice being offered to those who are in difficulty, npower said.
To demonstrate the severity of the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma, npower created FUEL, a one-off dining event with Jack Monroe; chef, activist and food writer.
The pop-up which saw diners choose between warm food in freezing surroundings or forgoing food for a warm setting, has been made into a film to bring a deeper understanding of the forced compromise faced by many people during winter – whether to keep warm or eat a hot meal.
The company has also launched the npower Foundation, an independent charity which aims to alleviate the heat or eat dilemma by expanding the Fuel Bank® network more widely.
Since 2015, the Fuel Bank has provided immediate support for people in fuel crisis by giving two weeks’ worth of emergency gas and electricity to Foodbank users, in partnership with anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust.
In the last two and a half years, the initiative has helped over 70,000 people with pre – payment meters, providing over £1 million worth of emergency gas or electricity.
npower has committed £1million per year until 2020 and this funding allows the current support at 62 Foodbank centres across the UK to continue.
However, the need is much greater, as the UK currently has over 1,000 Foodbanks.
Jack Monroe, activist and food writer, said: “Having to decide between having a small meal, or turning a radiator on to sit beside in a freezing cold flat, is something I lived through for almost 18 months.
“It is devastating, debilitating, and happening in hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of homes in the UK. Food and warmth are two of our most basic human needs, and yet for many, they must choose one or the other.
“I am urging you to please take action to help those in need. People often don’t talk about this issue; it is shrouded in shame and secrecy, so it could be happening on your street, to your neighbours.
“Please give as generously as you can to help the Fuel Bank help people in your communities.”
Matthew Cole, npower’s head of social energy and trustee of the npower Foundation, said: “Fuel Bank users tell us how a simple fuel voucher can make a world of difference to both them and their family members, not only providing power, heat and light, but also by reducing anxiety and worry.
“It was because of this that npower was determined to act, to help more people above those benefitting from the existing £1m commitment to the Fuel Bank.
“I am delighted that to mark the launch of the npower Foundation npower will also match the first public donations up to £50,000*.”
To see the Fuel Heat or Eat dining dilemma, go to www.npower.com/blog/heat-or-eat/ and for more information and to donate to the Foundation, go to npower.com/npowerfoundation
*To be eligible for match funding, donations must be made through the npower Foundation CAF Donate Page. npower will match the value of single donations net of gift aid (where applicable). Match funding will end on the date that is the earlier of 31st October 2018 and npower reaching its maximum total match funding of £50,000. Any donations made after this date will not be eligible for match funding by npower.