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UK weather: ‘Cause for concern’ – millions can’t afford to heat their homes as ‘dangerously cold’ weather arrives | UK News

More than three million low-income households cannot afford to heat their homes during the current spell of cold weather – putting their health at risk, according to new research.

It comes as the Met Office warns that an Arctic blast is hitting the UK, which could cause overnight temperatures as low as -10C by the end of the week.

Motorists could face treacherous conditions on the roads, with train journeys taking longer than usual.

Thursday weather forecast

The UK Health and Security Agency has issued a cold weather alert – and says vulnerable people should heat their homes to at least 18C, wear extra layers of clothing, and eat hot food to protect themselves.

But about 710,000 households cannot afford to follow this advice because they cannot pay for warm clothing, heating and food, and another 2.5 million families on low incomes are going without.

The research was carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and its senior economist Rachelle Earwaker said: “The dangerously cold weather on the horizon is cause for concern.

“People are being forced to wager their financial health and whether they can afford more debt, against their wellbeing without sufficient heat, clothing or hot food.”

The survey of 4,251 people in the bottom 40% of incomes suggested that about 4.3 million have cut the amount they spend on heating.

It also found that many families are already behind on their bills, owing more than £1,600 on average.

And temperatures are likely to remain low for some time yet.

Read more: Families face stark choices after a year of the cost of living crisis

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‘I’ve had to disconnect my gas’

‘Arctic maritime airmass’: Snow and ice forecast

The Met Office has extended yellow weather warnings into Thursday and Friday, with ice expected in much of Northern Ireland, Wales, parts of northern England and most of England’s eastern and western coastal areas.

The northern half of Scotland is likely to see snow and ice on both days, the forecaster said.

Met Office chief meteorologist Steve Willington said: “As an Arctic maritime airmass settles across the UK, temperatures will fall with widespread overnight frosts, severe in places, and daytime temperatures only a few degrees above freezing.

“However, the cold air from the Arctic will also bring brighter conditions, with some dry, sunny spells, particularly away from the coast and where winds are light it could feel pleasant in the sunshine. Some patchy freezing fog is also likely.

“Showers will turn more wintry with an increasing risk of snow as the week progresses, particularly in coastal areas or over higher ground.”

Beware of slippery roads and pavements

Roads, pavements and cycle lanes could all be slippery, the Met Office said, and motorists have also been warned to keep blankets in their vehicles in case they break down.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis added: “Our advice is to be winter ready – check tyres are properly inflated and with good tread, while topping up oil, coolant and screen wash levels if needed.

“Drivers with older batteries in their cars might also wish to give their vehicle a 20-minute drive before colder conditions arrive to ensure the battery can cope with sub-zero temperatures.

“It’s also worth having a fully charged mobile phone and carrying a blanket in case of a breakdown to keep warm.”

The scene in the Stannington area of Sheffield after a major incident has been declared in the South Yorkshire city after temperatures plummeted in the suburb left without gas for five days
About 2,000 homes in the Sheffield have had no gas for five days

No gas for heating or cooking for five days

Meanwhile, about 2,000 homes in the Sheffield area of Stannington have had no gas for five days and some could be without supply until the weekend.

A water main burst on Friday night – sending hundreds of thousands of litres of water into the gas network.

Sheffield City Council leader Terry Fox said the authority has declared a major incident so staff can be redeployed to the area.

Asked about the approaching cold snap, Mr Fox said: “We’re very worried… but, what we’ve seen, to be brutally frank, is a real deep community spirit where people are helping individuals.”

Sheffield Hallam’s Labour MP, Olivia Blake, has said she has asked Chancellor Jeremy Hunt for emergency funding for the council and raised the issue in the Commons on Wednesday, but said she has not yet received a response.

Cadent, the firm which runs the gas network, says 150 people are working day and night to fix the problem, and they have started to reconnect gas to some homes.

‘It’s going to be terrible for me’: Two-thirds of adults worry they cannot afford Christmas dinner | UK News

Two-thirds of adults are worried that they will not be able to afford Christmas dinner, according to a survey.

The survey, commissioned by the Salvation Army, calculated the cost of Christmas dinner at £7.50 per head but – as the price of food is continuing to rise – the cost has increased since the survey was carried out on 22 October.

The concern is greater among those aged 65 and over – 81% – and those in the east of England – 80%.

Some 16% are planning to use a food bank to get items for their meal, while 38% are likely to skip meals if they have an unexpected expense such as a broken boiler.

The Salvation Army’s Lieutenant Colonel Dean Pallant said: “Christmas should be the season of joy, not sorrow.

“If so many people are worried they can’t even afford one of the most important meals of the year, it’s a red flag that poverty is creeping further into our communities.”

The poll also found that 14% of people cannot afford to buy their children a present this Christmas, and 18% expect to spend time in a building that is free to visit – just so they can keep warm.

Lt Col Pallant said measures announced in the autumn statement show the government is trying to help, but “its ability to stop the creep of poverty has been dangerously reduced due to rising inflation and the overall bleak economic outlook”.

He continued: “We expect this Christmas to be one of our busiest ever and are providing as many emergency food parcels as possible for those in urgent need and Christmas dinner for isolated older people.

Read more:
Rising energy and food bills tip inflation to highest level since 1981
UK economy to be worst hit of all G7 nations, OECD report says

“And our Present Appeal is giving gifts to children who would otherwise have nothing to open on Christmas Day.

“We also offer a warm space in many of our buildings to people who can’t afford to heat their homes and will support rough sleepers so they aren’t forced to spend a cold Christmas on the streets.”

In October, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that almost half of UK adults were finding it difficult to afford energy bills, rent, or mortgage payments.

This comes against a background of tax hikes and inflation that is rapidly outpacing wages.

John, a 64-year-old grandfather and volunteer worker from Middlesbrough, told the Salvation Army survey: “I usually go to relatives for Christmas dinner, but they can’t afford to have me this year so I will stay at home.

“I am going to treat it like a normal day and have sandwiches for lunch as I’m worried it will cost too much to buy the food and cook it.

“It is going to be a terrible Christmas for me.”

A government spokeswoman said: “We recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we’re protecting millions of the most vulnerable households through our £37bn package of support, including at least £1,200 of direct payments and saving households an average of £900 on their energy bills this winter, in addition to £150 of extra support for disabled people and £300 per household for pensioners.

“Vulnerable families in England are being supported by the government’s Household Support Fund – which was boosted by £500m – to help pay for essentials.”

Feed my dog or children? Record high calls from owners who cannot afford their dogs | UK News

Pet-owners are increasingly unable to afford their animals as the cost of living crisis bites, according to welfare charities.

The Dogs Trust has received 15,000 calls this year from owners asking about the process of giving up their dogs to be rehomed.

The figure is up 54% from this year, and the highest ever since the charity’s contact centre opened in 2014.

In the first five months of 2022, the RSPCA took in 49% more rabbits, 14% more cats and 3% more dogs than the same period in 2021. Its research suggests cat-owners are the most impacted and concerned about cost of living pressures.

Dogs Trust CEO Owen Sharp said they were speaking to families “forced to make impossible choices because of their financial situations”.

They had even received a call from a lady who was “distraught because she felt she had no choice but to give up the family dog; she was facing a decision between feeding him or her children,” he said.

Costs of things like pet food have increased following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which fuelled inflation in the UK that could rise to 13%.

Veterinary charity The PDSA estimates the cost of keeping a dog at between £50 – £80 a month. But this adds up to £25-30,000 over the course of the dog’s lifetime, including upfront costs like a bed and lead, extra items including toys and poo bags, as well as pet insurance.

The RSPCA warned the country is on the “brink of an animal welfare crisis” due to the rise in pet ownership during the pandemic and the subsequent cost of living crisis, especially for low-income households.

“We’re starting to see the knock-on effects of this as we, and other charities, predicted,” Emma Slawinski, the RSPCA’s director of advocacy and policy, said in a statement earlier this summer.

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Maxim Skripnik has stayed in Ukraine ever since intense Russian bombing started, to look after 600 dogs at his shelter.

“Tragically, we’re starting to see an increase in the abandonment of pets and growing numbers of cats and rabbits being rescued and coming into our care,” she added.

A YouGov survey of 4,000 people, commissioned by the RSPCA, suggested 78% of pet owners think the cost of living will impact their animals, almost seven out of 10 (68%) were concerned about rising cost of care, and a fifth (19%) worried whether they could afford to feed their pets.

The Dogs Trust urged pet owners to get in touch before reaching crisis point. Various forms of help from donors, volunteers, foster carers and adopters is available, said the charity, which houses dogs until it can find them new homes.