Desperate woman uses cat to keep warm as heating too expensive

Cost of living: Homeowner reveals she is having to sell her house

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A disabled woman has resorted to stuffing a cat down her jumper after the cost-of-living crisis drove her to desperation to keep warm. Sharon Hearn, 50, from Newtown, Wales, has struggled to keep her home warm after being told she can no longer claim the winter fuel bill discount and only switches her heating on for two hours a day. Despite being much more vulnerable to the cold than the average Briton, temperatures in her home plummeted to nearly half the recommended level during the December 2022 cold snap.

Ms Hearn told the BBC she suffers from spinal cord damage, rheumatoid arthritis and a brain injury, which has left her partially reliant on a wheelchair.

She told the broadcaster that people in her condition tend to “feel the cold a lot more”.

Ms Hearne said her council house that she can only afford to operate her council home’s £8-an-hour air source heat pump for up to two hours.

Rationing her heating use forced her to turn to other sources, using her cat, Toby.

She explained that, alongside bundling up in several layers of blankets and jumpers, she shares her body heat with the cat.

She said: “At night and during the day, normally I have three to four blankets on.

“I normally have two jumpers on, two socks on and I’m very lucky to have a cat. Because he’s cold I put him down my jumper and we sort of warm each other up.”

But the freezing conditions are taking their toll, aggravating Ms Hearne’s health issues.

She added: “Sitting in these conditions is making my arthritis worse and making my joints worse, and making my mobility worse.”

Heating her home for two hours leaves her with bills up to “five, six, seven hundred pounds” by spring.

She claimed the Warm Home Discount (WHD) helpline told her she lost her eligibility for the one-off £150 relief due to her home’s D rating for energy efficiency.

But the Government disputed this is a reason that people lose the discount.

A spokesman told the BBC officials base the WHD on “people’s financial circumstances” instead of energy efficiency.

Households qualify for the discount if they receive the pension credit guarantee or a means-tested benefit.

People can also receive the WHD if they receive tax credits and their income is below a select threshold.

Officials said they are “prioritising households most in need” over winter.

Cold homes can have adverse consequences, even if temperatures drop into the low teens.

Official organisations, among them the Energy Saving Trust and World Health Organisation, recommend keeping homes in the 18C to 21C range,

Older people are most at risk if their home temperature deviates from this consistent average.

Temperatures below 9C can increase the risk of hypothermia, while temperatures between 9C and 12C or above 24C increase stroke and heart attack risks.

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