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The University of Southampton
Interdisciplinary Research Excellence

Is there a 'heat or eat' trade off in the UK? Event

12:00 - 13:00
20 April 2015
Building 67, Room 1007 - University of Southampton Highfield Campus SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom

For more information regarding this event, please email Frances Clarke at .

Event details

This talk explores the theme of food and austerity through the lens of one of the most high profile, yet under-evidenced, phenomena in the current era of austerity: the decision to 'heat or eat'.

Speaker: Dr Carolyn Snell (Social Policy, University of York)

There is increased discussion about households having to make stark choices between 'heating and eating' and the driver of this phenomenon is perceived to be the relative flexibility of food and fuel costs compared to other household expenses. However, the evidence base that exists is largely made up of single household case studies and small scale surveys conducted by NGOs, and is rarely the central focus of the research in which it appears. Moreover, existing evidence pays little or no attention to spatial disparities within such debates, largely ignoring the very different, and often more challenging circumstances faced by the rural poor, including disparate and more stretched public services, a limited and energy inefficient housing stock, and restricted access to cheaper forms of fuel such as mains gas. This paper will scrutinise the 'heat or eat' dilemma in a rural context, investigating the legitimacy and complexity of such claims, and critically assessing existing and potential policy responses.

Carolyn Snell is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy with a multidisciplinary background. She has held a research post at the Stockholm Environment Institute where she worked on the social and public policy dimensions of transport policies. Since 2011 her research and publications have largely focused on energy policy in the UK, with a particular interest in fuel poverty. In 2011 she received a grant from Eaga Charitable Trust to investigate the relationship between fuel poverty, welfare reforms and disabled people and in 2014 she received an EPSRC grant to research whether food bank recipients were facing a ‘heat or eat’ dilemma as suggested by many news reports. Research findings have been included within the National Institute for Care and Excellence’s national guidelines on Excess Winter Deaths, and have also been presented at an event in Parliament.

This event is part of the Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology (SSPC) seminar series.


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