RESIDENTS in one of Britain's coldest neighbourhoods say they can barely afford to heat their homes.
Poor insulation coupled with rising bills mean monthly spending is "through the roof" for many households, but it is particularly bad for those in Fforest-fach, Swansea – described as an "energy crisis hotspot".
Here, people on the lowest incomes live in properties that are the most expensive to heat due to low efficiency ratings.
Julie Cooch moved into a council house in the area five years ago and has been battling chilly drafts ever since.
She said cladding was fitted to the outside of her house, but gaps mean there is no insulation to keep the cold out.
The 67-year-old told WalesOnline: "It is drafty. None of the windows work properly."
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Julie, who lives alone, has just been discharged from hospital following a battle with lung cancer and needs to keep warm during her recovery.
But her bills are too high for her to keep up with, and she is now topping up her meter with £20 every two days – twice as much as this time last year.
She applied for the Warm Home Discount Scheme which offers £150 off the bills of people who are struggling.
But she couldn't get through to her energy supplier to get the credit added to her account so is living without, despite being eligible.
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Julie's neighbour Lisa Hardy is facing similar problems as her gas and electricity bills have also doubled in the last year.
This month, her Universal Credit payments don't even cover the charges unless she sacrifices much of her weekly food shop.
The 44-year-old, who is unable to work due to sickness, said: "We've been putting the heating on but not very often.
"The cost-of-living has gone through the roof.
"The windows are crap and there is draft around the door. It doesn't warm up upstairs at all.
"As soon as you turn the heating off, it gets cold again."
Rhiannon Jones, 18, who lives nearby agreed that her home is unbearably cold, while Jill Hassett, 66, is also battling rising bills.
And Rebecca Jones, 46, said her energy bills have shot up three times from £80 a month to about £300.
They all live in Ravenhill – named in the top 10 coldest places to live in Wales by environmental justice organisation Friends of the Earth.
Researchers found the hotspot has some of the lowest energy efficiency ratings in the country, meaning homes are harder to heat as warmth escapes through windows, doors and roofs.
As a result, residents pay more for than average for their bills.
Other top 10 coldest communities include Grangetown in Cardiff and Caerau in Bridgend.
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Swansea Council said millions of pounds has already been invested into providing new roofs, insulation, weatherboards, boilers, energy controls and high performance double glazing in the area, but millions more is coming to "tackle fuel poverty".
A spokesperson added: "We are helping lead the way in the creation of modern, safe and warm council housing."
What to do if you can’t pay your bills
FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.
If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.
Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.
One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.
You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.
A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.
To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income support
- income-related employment and support allowance
- Pension credit
- Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)
If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.
In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.
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