Posted: 17 February 2015

'They didn’t care that I was homeless - they had a nice warm house to go home to'

This winter, two million families – with 3.8 million children – are struggling to pay their energy bills. For more than half of these families (1.3 million), at one point or another, this struggle has become too much and they have fallen behind on their bills. Leanne, shares how her family is caught in a debt trap.

Leanne's story

Leanne lives in a two-bedroom flat with her 11-year old son and seven-year-old daughter, where they have lived for the past year. It is a council flat, and Leanne pays part of the rent and gets some help from housing benefit.

She currently has an outstanding debt of around £1,000 for gas use in her previous home. The debt was accumulated over an extended period of time, but Leanne doesn’t remember getting any interim bills or instalment requests from her energy provider. However, when she spoke to her provider to try and deal with the issue they said they had sent her information on how much she owed as the amount was increasing.

‘It’s like the housing before, they didn’t care that I was homeless ‘cos they had a nice warm house to go home to’.

In the end, this forced Leanne to move out because she couldn’t pay the debt off and she couldn’t change supplier without paying the debt, and the gas supplier was threatening to cut her gas supply off. 

This caused her a great deal of distress and worry at the time, further compounded by the threat of bailiffs or being cut off, but she tried not to worry about how much energy she was using – she did what she had to do to live her daily life and make sure her children could do the same. The debts are still outstanding, and there are difficult choices to be made, but making sure there is sufficient gas, electricity and food for her children is her priority. This situation has led to Leanne living mostly in the ‘emergency zone’ with the gas and electricity. Her treatment from energy companies has led her to believe that they don’t care.

Get involved

Almost a million children are living in families in energy debt - and their health is being damaged. These children are three times more likely to have damp or mould in their home and three times as likely to have been ill last winter.

Find out how we can stop debt's damaging effects on children

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Show some warmth

Sign our petition - ask energy companies to show some warmth to children in families facing energy debt.

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Show Some Warmth: Energy debt and families

Posted: 21 January 2015