Citizens Advice survey shows millions will fall into energy bills debt

Wed,24 August 2022

New analysis from Citizens Advice shows 1 in 4 (24%) people in the UK won’t be able to afford to pay their energy bills in October, based on current forecasts.

That is double the number already in the red before the price cap rises in two months. The figure could jump to 1 in 3 (34%) people in January when prices are predicted to soar above £4,200. Citizens Advice said that 3.2 million Disabled people and 4.4 million families with children will not be able to meet the hike in prices expected in October without additional Government support.

The charity’s projections, based on a survey of 6,000 people, take account of the energy rebate and cost-of-living payments already offered by the government, showing that spiralling costs are rapidly outstripping the support on offer.

Citizens Advice said that future support must target those who need it most. Alongside further interventions from the government to help people with bills, it is calling on Ofgem to ensure that people are protected from the most serious consequences of falling into arrears. This includes a suspension of forced installations of prepayment meters.

With future price rises rapidly outpacing the value of the energy rebate, it warned further action will be needed to stop more people falling into debt.

People using prepayment meters are amongst those struggling the most. In July, the charity saw record numbers of people who were unable to top up their prepayment meter – the fifth time this record has been broken this year.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Dame Clare Moriarty said: “Every single day at Citizens Advice we’re already helping people in the most heart-breaking circumstances, trying to scrape together enough to feed their kids and keep the lights on. This will get far, far worse unless the Government acts.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that skyrocketing prices will swallow up all of the help that has been announced so far. Every day that goes by without a plan is another day without reassurance for people who desperately need it. We urgently need further support, otherwise we risk a winter of despair for millions.”

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “There is now mounting evidence that the Government support package to address the cost-of-living crisis will leave millions of people in crisis. The looming surge in energy bills will hit Disabled people particularly hard, many of us depend on energy to stay healthy and independent, and we already face the extra costs of disability. The Government must act now to increase benefits in line with inflation and to provide additional targeted support to Disabled people.”

Citizens Advice’s web page on help with rising living costs was viewed over 70,000 times in July. That is 40% up on its previous record, which was set in March 2020 when the country entered the first national Covid lockdown.