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Eighty percent of low income households are worried about energy bills

This winter, Citizens Advice is offering record levels of support to vulnerable people who are struggling with their energy bills. Thirty eight per cent of people told the charity that, before getting help from the programme, they couldn’t heat their homes enough to be comfortable.

Energy Best Deal returns this year, a record £5 million pounds will go to fund the project. Extra cash will be used to roll out additional support, which will give tailored, one to one advice to people who are struggling to make ends meet. Energy Best Deal Extra will help people cut the cost of fuel bills, sort out debts, solve benefit problems and help with the search for work.

New figures released today are based on a survey of over 6,000 people who received help from Energy Best Deal, a programme run by Citizens Advice and funded by the energy industry to help people on low incomes cut their fuel bills.

Four in five people (78 per cent) told Citizens Advice that they were concerned about the cost of their winter fuel bills
Only one in five (21 per cent) said they were not worried about the cost of heating their home
17 per cent said that their fuel bills were ‘a strain’
Over a quarter (26 per cent) said that they were unable to heat their home because of the high cost of fuel
12 per cent blamed inefficient heating or homes which leak energy
Citizens Advice Bureaux have helped over 72,000 people with fuel issues in the past year.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of national charity Citizens Advice, said:

“No-one should have to face a winter in a cold, dark home .Vulnerable people are risking their well-being because they are anxious about bills. It’s extremely worrying that eighty per cent of people on low incomes are concerned about the cost of energy.

“Many people feel like they have no choice but to cut their energy use if they need to reduce their bills, but there is other action you can take. That’s why we’re running Energy Best Deal to make sure that people aren’t paying a penny more than they need to for fuel this winter. We’ll be out and about in local communities throughout the winter helping people to make sure that they are getting the best deal, avoiding waste and making the most of the help available from the energy industry and the Government.”

115 CAB in England and Wales and 21 CAB in Scotland will run workshops to help people cut their bills. Last year three quarters of people took action to cut their bills after attending a workshop. Forty three per cent of people who attended a workshop said that they had contacted their supplier to get a better deal, 27 per cent applied for help through the Warm Homes Discount, ECO or the Green Deal and 28 per cent said they would pass on their knowledge to help friends and family save.

To see if you can get help from the Energy Best Deal Programme, get in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Energy top tips

1.Check your bills carefully and read your meter regularly. This will allow you to check how much energy you use and make sure you’re paying the right amount.

2.Talk to your supplier if you think your bill is wrong or if you have problems paying. They’ll be able to give you advice about available support or talk you through repayment options.

3.If money is tight, contact your local CAB. They can check to see if you are getting the benefits you are entitled to, or if you can get help paying your bills.

4.Make sure that you’re on the cheapest tariff. Check with your supplier and use an accredited switching website to see who’s offering the best deal. Tariffs are changing in 2014 so it is important that you are aware of your current deal and any changes your supplier is planning.

5.Most energy suppliers offer fixed price tariffs, where the price of a unit of energy will stay the same for the length of the deal. These can work out cheaper in the long term and make it easier to budget – although you might need to pay by direct debit and your bills will still go up if you use more energy.

6.If you use a pre-payment meter, remember that standing charges will be added daily - even when you aren’t using energy. Check how much they are and keep your meter topped up even during warm weather to avoid unexpected charges

7.If you use heating oil as your main fuel, buy before winter and see if there are any local oil buying clubs you can join. If not, you might want to start your own.

8.Make your home energy efficient – insulate lofts and walls, double glaze or use thick curtains to keep the heat in, and get your boiler serviced or replaced to ensure it is energy efficient. There are schemes to help with this.

9.Save money and energy – don’t leave appliances on standby or leave laptops and mobile phones on charge unnecessarily. Fix leaking taps and always turn off the light when you leave a room.

10.Do a home energy check to find out about savings on household energy bills.