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Record numbers need help with energy debt even before winter arrives

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

Millions could be facing an even worse struggle with energy bills than they did last year, according to research from a national charity.

Citizens Advice’s latest study discovered that nearly eight million people had to borrow money to meet the cost of energy bills in the first half of this year. It forecast that this number will increase in the coming months.

As many will start the winter in debt, there is a high risk of them falling further behind as they pay back arrears on top of increasing energy costs as the colder weather arrives.

Citizens Advice have predicted  that by the end of this year, it will have seen 26% more people in need of help with energy debt compared to last year.

The number of those seeking help with their energy bills has doubled over the past four years. It found that disabled people, single parents and low-income households earning less than £29,000 will be the hardest hit this winter.

A higher level of anxiety was also found amongst these groups in contrast to the general population. The study revealed that 77% of single parents said that were very or fairly worried about paying their energy bills as we head towards December. While 55% of disabled people said that they were very or fairly worried about affording their energy bills over the next six months.

The charity has called for immediate Government action such as providing more support through the Warm Home Discount, where last winter, those eligible received a £150 discount off their electricity bills.

Government needs to step in

Dame Clare Moriarty, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “What we saw last winter must never be repeated. Struggling households unable to pay their energy bills, people unable to top up their prepayment meter, and record numbers coming to us for crisis support.

“With increasing numbers of people we help facing a negative budget, where they simply don’t have enough to cover their essential bills, there is a real risk this winter will be worse. The Government should look seriously at stepping in with additional bill support to help people through the winter.”