Thousands of households in Wigan are living in fuel poverty, figures show.
Charity National Energy Action has warned of the devastating effects of being unable to afford heating bills, and urged the Government to take steps to protect vulnerable households.
Official figures reveal that 17,022 households in Wigan cannot afford to heat and light their homes properly without being pushed into poverty.
It means that the issue affects 12 per cent of households in the area, according to the report from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
That’s slightly lower than the average of 13 per cent across the North West. Across England, the rate is 11 per cent.
A household is considered to be fuel poor if they have energy costs above the national median, and if meeting those costs would push them below the poverty line.
The 414,000 fuel poor households in the North West are, on average, £305 short of being able to afford their energy bills each year.
Rising energy costs, low incomes and energy-inefficient housing are the main factors behind fuel poverty, according to NEA chief executive Adam Scorer.
He said: “The effects can be devastating - social isolation, poorer physical and mental health, lower educational achievement, and rationing of food and other essentials.
“We hear from individuals who are so stressed about their energy bills that they live in a constant state of anxiety, and from people who have no choice but to live in a cold, damp home, making health conditions such as bronchitis worse.
“We hear about children spending most of their time at home during the winter in bed trying to keep warm, rather than socialising with their families.”
Mr Scorer added that the cost of treating cold temperature-related illnesses brought on by fuel poverty is a burden on the NHS, while energy inefficient homes are a major cause of CO2 emissions.
The likelihood and severity of fuel poverty depend on the type of household.
A quarter of single-parent households in England are fuel poor, while a fifth of private renters are affected - compared to just 8 per cent of owner occupiers.
A BEIS spokesperson said: “No one should be cold in their own home. That’s why we’re protecting all households from rip-off deals with our energy price cap, and helping two million low-income households get money off their winter energy bills.
“On top of this, we’re targeting support at the most vulnerable, giving extra money to pensioners during the winter and improving the energy efficiency of households on low income.”