A mother of three says she has been unable to heat her home since Boxing Day because of the rising cost of home heating oil.
Rhoda Whitaker (33), who lives in Bushmills, said she has endured a “living hell” coping with freezing conditions and washing her children using a flannel and hot water from the kettle as she cannot afford to refill her oil tank.
Mrs Whitaker said the couple had faced a choice between “paying the rent and eating, or heating the house”.
Mrs Whitaker and husband James moved to Northern Ireland two years ago from Nottingham, and said they were shocked at the level of homes using heating oil.
“I do think something needs to be done about the cost: we were used to gas in England, oil is just very expensive and can change quickly,” she said. “We had filled the tank before Christmas. I think that was about £204 for 500 litres but it soon ran out.
“It was only on for a minimum. I would have put the heat on for an hour or so in the morning so the kids could have had a wash, then the same in the evening.
“Now it is a choice between paying the rent and eating, or heating the house — we can’t afford the oil.”
Mrs Whitaker, a full-time mum, contacted the Citizens’ Advice Bureau but was told to contact churches or charities like St Vincent De Paul for help.
“I feel there is nowhere to turn. We are living in freezing conditions.
“I know there are emergency oil drums, but the type of tank that is attached to the property, I’m told it needs at least 100 litres of oil for it to pump through the house. That would be five of them, and they are too expensive.”
Mrs Whitaker said her husband who works in a factory feels she is constantly “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
“It is just so disheartening.
“I know people who even if they do have some heating oil left they are scared to put it on in case they run out.”