Some families in South Yorkshire have been forced to choose between heating their homes and other essentials such as food - or risk plunging into debt, a new study has found.
Sheffield Hallam University staff carried out research which found those on low incomes were having to ‘trade off’ heating their houses.
The Warm Well Families project explored the factors that influence the decisions and behaviours of vulnerable households regarding keeping well and warm at home.
The research study was conducted in South Yorkshire and found that many vulnerable households in Rotherham and Doncaster were forced to choose between heating and food or other commodities, or risk falling into debt.
Dr Anna Cronin de Chavez, a research fellow in the university’s Centre for Health and Social Care Research, said: “We found that families are forced to spread their finances too thinly across all aspects of their living costs.
“It’s not just a case of ‘heat or eat’ anymore, there are many other aspects for parents to consider and that’s forcing them to make compromises that aren’t necessarily beneficial.
“The reality for most families living on a low income is that they are making sensible choices and do have the right priorities but it has now become a big balancing act and they are struggling to find the resources to help them keep warm.”
Every year there are on average 24,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales.
They are usually caused by respiratory and cardiovascular problems which can be brought on by being cold.
During the study researchers focused on 35 households and interviewed 109 parents, children, young people.
Health and social care professionals also took part in the study.