Millions of Britons are facing misery and despair as energy bills soar, and the situation will get worse when the energy price cap drops to £3,549 a year from October 1. The human cost of this situation is slowly being brought to light.

Catherine Haley waited 10 years to get her council house in Sunderland, and she loves living there.

Catherine, 63, a former printer for Sunderland council, has been unable to work since having surgery for bowel cancer in 2008. “Since then I have been very badly,” she said.

Her marriage broke up after the diagnosis, so she lives there alone. “It’s so well placed that there’s a huge Aldi just across the road where I can walk.”

The bungalow has a small sunny garden, and Catherine loved to settle there during the summer. “I took advantage of the rays of the sun, as if I were on vacation in a warm place,” she says.

But there is a cloud on the horizon, and it threatens the life Catherine has come to love.

Her combined gas and electricity bill recently doubled to around £120 a month, and now she estimates it could top £250.

Catherine is furious with her energy company, which increased her monthly charge by £50 without even telling her. “The extra money just came out of my account, without warning. How dare they?”

Energy costs will absorb a significant portion of the two benefits she receives due to her health issues, the Employment Support Allowance and the Personal Independence Payment.

This gives her a total income of £900 per month. As energy prices rise, the cost could soon eat up a third of the money she receives.

“Gas and electric aren’t the only things going up, every time I go to Aldi all the prices have gone up. That’s all people are talking about in the aisles.

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A friend who owns a car drove Catherine to a local Tesco as a treat, and she couldn’t believe the prices. “I couldn’t afford to buy my food there,” she says.

Buying an air fryer helped. “They’re supposed to be the cheapest way to cook. I treat myself to a £3 chicken from Aldi, and it’s delicious.”

She also prepares stews, curries and bolognese, which she separates into boxes and keeps in the freezer.

Catherine has received help from the anti-poverty charity Fair for You, which offers affordable loans to help low-income families buy essential household items instead of using predatory mortgage lenders.

Catherine says it helped her buy a cooker, fridge-freezer and clothes dryer at a reduced price. “They were a big help,” she says.

She is desperate to buy new clothes, but it is not easy. “I haven’t bought anything for two years.”

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Catherine was relieved when the government announced the cost of living payment of £650 in June, but when the first £326 arrived it simply ‘disappeared’. “I owed £400 to my energy company, so that went towards that.”

She is angry that the support is going straight into the coffers of “profiteering” energy companies. “It doesn’t really benefit ordinary people,” she says.

She now fears she will have to move in with her daughter after the energy cap was raised in October.

Her daughter Leanne, 43, a single mother with 15-year-old twins John and Gary, works full time but is also struggling with soaring prices.

She only lives a few miles away but Catherine says. “I love my little bungalow, but unless the government does something, I’ll have to give it up. I won’t have a choice.”

Conservative Party leader Liz Truss has talked about offering tax cuts to help people, but that won’t do anything for those most in need, Catherine says.

“It could end in riots like the Poll Tax unless she acts. People aren’t going to take it.”