It's just one week into winter and already I'm wearing layers like it's Siberia.

I'm an unashamed wuss when it comes to the cold - right now, my hands are so cold I can barely type, and I'm in a temperature-controlled office.

Luckily for me, my flat has a lovely, warm heat pump so I can stay toasty most of the time.

When I say lucky, I mean exactly that.


For many families in our part of the country right now, being able to heat their homes throughout the cold months is an unimaginable luxury.

With our rental costs the way they are, anyone on a low wage struggles to afford wood for a fire, power for a heat pump or LPG for a gas heater.

After we've run stories about people struggling to feed and house their families, we often get feedback from better-off members of the public - surely if people aren't making ends meet, they're doing something wrong? They must be drinking, smoking or having too many kids.

Sadly, that's usually far from the case. These people are good citizens who are genuinely struggling. They're usually in good jobs - not the highest paying jobs, but respectable work.

Their wages are already stretched to pay for rent, food and power without worrying about warmth.

Then there are the families living in their cars because they can't find a rental property.

Their worries are more basic - where can I use a toilet at night? Where will I wash? Will I get enough sleep to get through work tomorrow?

For all these people a warm house is a pie-in-the-sky dream.

Even if you believe what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, it's a terrible way to live.