Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 14:34 UK

Energy prices: Readers' panel

The government has announced plans to give more help to the elderly and the vulnerable to pay for fuel bills. Three people who spoke in 2006 about how energy prices were hitting them give an update on how they're coping.

Click here to read what they had to say in 2006

NORMAN RUSSELL, PILGRIMS HATCH, ESSEX
Normal Russell
Over the past two years, I've had to change my energy supplier twice and seen my energy bills treble.

I had overpaid by about 700 over the past three years and it was only in November that I finally managed to get the money back, after a lot of effort.

Me and my wife can no longer afford to go on holidays, even within the UK. As you get older, you feel the cold more - and this has been compounded by me having been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

The medication I'm taking for this means that I often feel freezing cold even if the weather is warm. The winter fuel allowance certainly does help in the quarter that covers the winter, but the energy bills over the rest of the year still hit hard - particularly as they continue to go up.

I've also been affected by the abolition of the 10p tax rate, which has cost me about 200 a year - although the government has compensated for this, it only applies to this year so long term, I will be worse off.

As far as our experience is concerned, the government has taken away more from us than it has given. Any additional help it can give us to help with the energy prices would be appeciated.

GLENYS & KEITH BRIGHT, GORLESTON, NORFOLK

Keith Bright
I'm 52 and my husband Keith (pictured) is 48. We're both on disability allowance, but not on means tested benefits.

Keith has MS and I too have health problems. The past couple of years has been a real struggle.

We have had to seek an Individual Voluntary Arrangement - one step removed from bankruptcy - to try and repay the debts that have mounted up.

I'm also very concerned about my daughter, who had her third child in the winter.

She is having to be very careful with her money too and how much energy she uses.

I remember in 1978, under Harold Wilson, a Labour prime minister, people on low income and on certain benefits would get a 25% rebate on their fuel bills.

I think this is a measure that should be re-introduced, although we would probably not qualify from it.

Because me and my husband are not pensioners and not on means tested benefits, we are being hit really hard. The government doesn't seem to take into account the problems that disabled people have.

I have often had to just put a blanket over myself

Why does it give 200 winter fuel allowance to all pensioners, regardless of their income?

It would be much fairer if they redistributed the financial support to people who most need it, included people in our situation.

Because of my husband's condition, he can't use the local buses as they have steps. This means we are totally reliant on using our car for medical appointments - and the petrol price increases have been a real problem for us.

In the winter, I have often had to just put a blanket over myself on the sofa rather than turn the heating on.

But what people don't realise that even in the summer, when it can get quite hot, we also have to use electricity for fans - particularly as due to my husband's health, I need to make sure that he is cool.

I don't think the new plans announced by the government will help us.

ANDREA ROBINSON, WOLVERHAMPTON
Andrea Robinson

The situation over the past couple of years has been pretty steady for us.

Our total gas and electricity bills come to 170 a month and this hasn't increased much recently - although we are anticipating rises in the near future.

We made a real effort to try and cut down our energy use and went through a period where we would monitor our meters on a daily basis to try and work out which of our appliances were using the most energy.

We discovered that our microwave was using a lot of energy just by being plugged in with the clock displayed.

This and other appliances that are not in use are now always unplugged - and we've noticed a difference in the amount of energy we use as a result.

This has helped keep our energy bills at a manageable level.



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