We’re helping a record number of people who are struggling to pay for energy

 Price rises from January will pile even more pressure on millions of households in the UK.

In a world where the cost of living seems to rise continually, many individuals find themselves struggling to make ends meet. For some, the simple act of topping up their prepayment meter becomes a daunting challenge.

In 2022, Citizens Advice recorded an unprecedented surge in individuals across the UK struggling to afford prepayment meter top-ups—a number exceeding the combined figures of the preceding ten years. Disturbingly, 2023 witnessed an exacerbation of this trend, with Citizens Advice aiding a historic number of people unable to meet prepayment meter costs—nearly rivalling the totals from 2022 and 2021 combined. This paints a grim picture of the escalating energy debt crisis in the UK.

Despite these challenges, Citizens Advice advisers can help people stay on top of their utility bills, ensuring that no one is left in the literal dark. Sarah’s* story provides a poignant illustration of how we can provide practical support for those struggling with utility charges.

Sarah’s Story
Sarah is a single mother of two who was grappling with financial hardship after an unexpected job loss. Living on a tight budget, with mounting bills and an empty bank account, Sarah struggled to keep up with her prepayment meter top-ups. She feared that her supplier would disconnect her gas and electricity. Like many others, Sarah had not yet contacted her supplier to request support even though her situation had reached a critical point.

Realising that she did indeed need urgent practical help, Sarah contacted her local Citizens Advice office. Our advisers started by assessing her situation. They then liaised with Sarah’s energy supplier to arrange temporary credit. Many suppliers have signed up to the Energy UK vulnerability commitment. This means they will never knowingly disconnect someone’s energy supply if, for example, they have children under the age of 16 living with them during winter (1 October to 31 March). With Sarah’s consent, our advisers also explained to the supplier that Sarah had a long-term health condition. As a result, they readily agreed to include her on their priority register. This meant that, if Sarah ran out of temporary credit, her supplier would extend additional support, tailoring their assistance to suit her specific circumstances.

Beyond this immediate support, our advisers offered Sarah budgeting and financial planning advice. They helped her create a realistic budget, identify areas where she could cut expenses, and develop a long-term plan to regain control over her finances. Sarah said that she now had the tools and knowledge to avoid similar energy crises in the future. She no longer had to worry about her children being left in the cold or in the dark. Instead, Sarah regained control of her life, focusing on rebuilding and exploring new employment opportunities.

Are you struggling to pay your energy bills?

If you need more information about paying energy bills, seek help sooner rather than later. Our advisers are happy to help you. We provide free, confidential, and impartial advice.

National Citizens Advice and Energy Saving Trust have produced an online leaflet Energy Know How: the advice you need this winter which you can find at: https://bit.ly/47bNd2Z.

Remember. Ask your local council about nearby ‘warm spaces’. These are public places that anyone can use to stay warm – for example, a community space like a library during their opening hours.

If you find yourself in difficulties, please contact us at your local office.

*Not her real name to protect confidentiality

 

CITIZENS ADVICE SOUTH WEST SURREY

Adviceline contact by phone (free)

Tel 0808 278 7980 for those living in Waverley

Tel 0808 278 7888 for those living in Guildford and Ash.

All offices and outreaches are open as usual and you can use the website www.casws.org.uk to check opening times, use the on-line message (email) enquiry form and get self-help.

SOUTH WEST SURREY DOMESTIC ABUSE OUTREACH SERVICE

Tel: 01483 898884 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm)

Email: swr@swsda.org.uk

Website: www.swsda.org.uk.

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