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One in four will be unable to afford energy bill hikes

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

More than 14 million people will struggle with the predicted £145 per month energy bill hike in October which already comes on top of April’s price rises, a charity warns.

One in four adults – equivalent to 14.5 million people – will be unable to afford the predicted £145 a month energy price hikes in October.

This is up from the five million who said they already can’t afford April’s price increase of £60 a month, according to charity Citizen’s Advice.

It said two in five people fear they’ll be pushed into the red next month and have already borrowed money to pay for essentials.

The charity has seen demand for its services soar, with frontline staff continuing to help a record number of people access crisis support like food banks and one-off charitable grants amid the cost-of-living crisis. February surpassed January’s previous peak, with more than 24,000 people referred for support.

In the last week alone, it has helped a woman who couldn’t afford to top-up her pre-payment meter after a hospital visit which meant she only had spoiled food in her fridge.

In another case, a parent was forced to turn off their appliances and wash their children’s clothes at their mother’s house to save on energy costs.

And it also heard from a pensioner with a chronic health condition who wears multiple layers and her duvet to keep warm as she can’t afford to put her heating on.

As the Chancellor is set to deliver the Spring Statement next week, many charities and organisations are calling for Rishi Sunak to announce further support for families struggling to pay their bills.

‘Wake-up call to the government’

Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “These staggering findings must be a wake-up call to the government. With one in four unable to afford their bills come October, measures announced so far simply don’t meet the scale of the challenge.

“Parents shouldn’t have to decide between giving their kids a hot bath or saving the money to buy them new school shoes.

“The Chancellor has a crucial opportunity to bring forward more support for those most in need in his Spring Statement next week. Increasing benefits in line with inflation, expanding the Warm Home Discount and announcing a more generous energy rebate should be top of his list.”

Last month the Chancellor announced a £350 boost to households to help with the rising cost of energy. This is split between a £200 energy grant which has to be repaid in £40 instalments from next year, and a non-repayable £150 council tax rebate.

However, Citizen’s Advice research revealed many don’t think the £200 energy grant will help.

More than eight in 10 (83%) said they didn’t think the government’s loan would make a significant difference to their ability to pay their energy bills.

The charity also found that the average family on pre-payment meters would face bills of £336 a month – over £10 a day – in December 2022 when the same usage would have cost them £147 in December 2021. These customers, many of whom are already on low incomes, are set to be hit hardest by the rising energy prices.

It said it helped more than 1,000 people on pre-payment meters in February who simply couldn’t afford to top-up and were at risk of losing heat and power.