'I sold clothes and jewellery to pay my energy bills - there's nothing left to sell'

case study
Anne is one of millions of Brits facing soaring energy bills that she is unable to afford. (Anne Vivian-Smith)

Millions of people across the UK are facing devastating rises to their energy bills following a significant increase to the energy price cap on Thursday.

The cap, which is set by regulator Ofgem and is designed to protect consumers from being overcharged, soared by £650 to £1,971, an increase of 54%.

The decision comes as a result of spiralling wholesale gas prices, partly due to higher than expected gas use across the continent and lower than anticipated gas supplies from Russia.

Read more: Martin Lewis' plea to Rishi Sunak ahead of hideous energy price hike - 'Help is needed'

For some vulnerable people like Anne Vivan-Smith, the prospect of soaring bills is already a reality.

Anne, 51, who lives in Nottingham with her partner, told Yahoo News UK that her situation is desperate, describing it as "energy blind panic".

"I keep saying, 'I don’t know what to do'... we sold my jewellery, you know?

"We sold clothes to keep up and we’re [still] behind [on our energy bills]," she said.

"There’s nothing else to sell."

Anne, who is severely disabled from a progressive neurological disorder, uses hot water bottles and blankets to stay warm, but and relies heavily on electricity for the equipment for her disability.

Anne said that she has been forced to sell jewellery and clothes to get by. (Anne Vivian-Smith)

"I have ceiling track hoists that get me out of my chair [and in and out of] bed, or [get me] into my shower chair - [they have] to be on charge all the time," she said.

"So with energy, the only thing we can do is sit in the cold a lot... I’m only six stone because I’ve ended up with quite a lot of anxiety.

"I’m now 6 stone which means I am cold all of the time.

"And, last week, I was [under four] blankets because I can’t turn the heating on because we’re already [in so much energy bill debt] we can’t afford [it].”

She said the temperature of her house is now affecting her care.

Read more: Soaring energy bills will hit single parents, pensioners and disabled people hardest

"I don’t have my carers in as often as I should because I can’t make them work into cold," she said.

Anne added that her financial difficulties have only occurred recently.

"We were doing okay, two years ago," she said.

"We have plummeted in the last two years, and I think there are a huge section of invisible people, who are going to be hit in a way that they never saw coming."

On Thursday, Rishi Sunak announced a new package of measures worth up to £350 per person to help struggling Brits with their energy bills.

Watch: Rishi Sunak announces £350 help package to take ‘sting’ out of rising energy bills

“Right now I know that the number one issue on people’s minds is the rising cost of living," Sunak told MPs in the House of Commons.

He added: “Just as the government stood behind the British people through the pandemic, so we will help people deal with one of the biggest costs they now face: energy.”

However, £200 of the support package - which the chancellor describes as a "rebate" - will have to be paid back over the course of five years.

Read more: Cost of living: Three key dates that will affect the cash in your pocket

“I watched [the chancellor] with interest, but what doesn’t seem to be as clear as perhaps it should be is that it’s a loan," said Anne.

"With loans you have to pay them back... if you’re having to borrow the money in the first place, the chances of you having that money just miraculously occurring is quite slim."

She adds: "[My energy bills] have gone from £80 pounds to £140 [a month]... and they’ve stuck at £332 that they think we owe by the end of the last quarter.”

Anne's energy bills had already risen from £84.22 to £139.02 before the energy price cap was increased. (Anne Vivian-Smith)

Advocates have criticised Sunak's measures, saying much more is needed.

"The government’s proposals for support will do little but offset or defer part of the most recent rise," Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said.

"The reality is that fuel poverty has been increasing at an exponential rate and only a full package to support people - especially the most vulnerable - will be sufficient in the short term."

Read more: April could have 'catastrophic' impact on cost of living for swathe of UK population

Looking to the future, Anne says it looks bleak - and that the government don't seem to be in touch with the depth of the poverty and financial difficulty millions of vulnerable people are facing.

"I think they’re out of touch," she said.

"I think they need to have a think - they need to have an injection of honesty, because I don’t have faith or trust in this government."

Watch: Cost of living: What the latest interest rate rise means for your finances - and what you should do next