Cost-of-living crisis: 'If I don't put the heating on I'm worried I could die'

Ben Robinson
Ben Robinson, 42, is one of many disabled Brits fearing for his health this winter. (Supplied)

Rising energy bills are putting acute pressure on millions of households, with experts warning seven million people will be in fuel poverty this winter as the cost of living crisis deepens.

In May, then-chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government would support the most vulnerable with rising costs, including a £325 cost of living payment for those on means-tested benefits and £150 for people on disabilities benefits.

Current chancellor Jeremy Hunt has also pledged more help next year – including increasing benefits with inflation, providing a further £900 for means-tested benefits claimants and another £150 for those in disability benefits.

However, according to experts, many vulnerable people are still facing a potentially lethal winter – with energy bills almost double what they were last year despite the government capping the average yearly bill at £2,500.

Read more: Timeline, key dates and deadlines of cost of living payments

Ben Robinson, from north London, has severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He is one of many disabled Brits fearing for his health this winter.

The 42-year-old relies on a nebuliser to breathe and has been admitted to hospital multiple times in the past due to the cold air and winter viruses triggering his asthma.

"I'm genuinely worried that the cost of living rises are going to send me to an early grave," Robinson told Yahoo News UK.

"I've been hospitalised many times in winter because cold air and colds and viruses trigger my asthma and leave me fighting for breath.

"I'm already thinking I might have to cut back on using my nebuliser but if I have to cut back on heating too, I know I'll end up in hospital again."

Robinson said it was not just the cold that risks making him seriously ill, but the stress of the situation – one of the key triggers of an asthma attack.

The government energy price guarantee at its current level expires in April 2023 (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
The government energy price guarantee at its current level expires in April 2023 (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

"I'm constantly worrying about money," he said.

"My lung condition is getting worse, partly because I feel so stressed all the time.

"I'm worried I'll end up in hospital again if I have to cut down on using my nebuliser medication and food to afford heating."

Asthma and Lung UK has warned people with breathing difficulties could be rushed to A&E this winter if they are unable to afford to heat their homes.

"Winter is already a deadly time for people with lung conditions and the last thing we want to see is more people being rushed to hospital fighting for breath, because of exposure to the cold," Dr Erika Radford, the organisation's head of health advice told Yahoo News UK.

Read more: NHS 'prescribes warmth' for respiratory patients and pays their heating bills

"We are urging the government to step up for people with lung conditions by introducing more targeted support to help people keep their homes warm this winter."

Robinson's story comes after the End Fuel Poverty Coalition warned rising energy bills are having an "horrific" impact on vulnerable and disabled people in the aftermath of the chancellor's budget last week.

"The chancellor has now condemned seven million households to suffer in fuel poverty this winters," said Simon Francis, co-ordinator of End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

He added: "We are already seeing the horrific impact of living in cold damp homes on children, the elderly, disabled and those with illnesses ranging from cancer to asthma.

"Even with the additional funding pledged to the NHS and social care system today, we are deeply concerned that it will be overwhelmed by the energy bills crisis and millions will suffer."

Watch: Rising energy and food bills tip inflation to highest level since 1981