Campaigns launched as energy debts soar
With an increasing number of people in debt to their electricity and gas providers, Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice have launched a ‘Plug the Debt’ campaign.
A total of 1.5 million people are believed to be in debt in the UK and figures for spring this year show a 25 per cent increase in the number of people with electricity debts and a 20 per cent increase in those owing money for gas.
With energy costs soaring, high levels of inflation and increasing numbers of redundancies, household budgets are feeling the strain.
Energy prices increased by 7% last winter and with a further increase of 14 per cent this autumn Consumer Focus warns that more people will struggle to pay their energy bills.
New research by Consumer Focus suggests that many people will resort to heating just one or two rooms this winter to cut their energy costs, while 45 per cent of customers do not trust their energy supplier to help them if they are unable to pay their bill.
The Plug the Debt campaign aims to raise consumers’ awareness of what to do if they are finding it difficult to pay energy bills.
Consumers are advised to contact their energy supplier as soon as they are aware that they might have a problem so that realistic repayment targets can be agreed.
To help reduce costs, consumers may be able to switch to a cheaper deal, either with their existing supplier or with an alternative supplier.
Customers may also be eligible for free insulation to help cut energy bills.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizen’s Advice, said: “We urge people to check that they aren’t missing out on any benefits or tax credits that could ease the pressure on their finances – and if they are in debt to get help immediately.”
Saga, which offers services and products for the over-50s, has announced its support for another campaign focused on combating fuel poverty.
The Surviving Winter Appeal is a national campaign which asks those who can afford to give up their Winter Fuel Payment to donate it to a fund which will be used to help elderly and vulnerable people in need of support this winter.
The director-general of Saga, Dr Ros Altmann, warned that the UK has one of the highest winter death rates in Europe.