Energy bills are the biggest worry for around 2.2 million people this winter, according to research from Citizens Advice.
The charity has launched a new campaign encouraging people who are worried about energy bills to seek advice from the Citizens Advice network.
The research is based on analysis of YouGov polling, and also estimates that over 1.4 million people are worried about being able to adequately heat their home this winter.
CAS is now launching the ‘Worried this winter’ campaign, encouraging people to seek advice from the network in a variety of ways.
Last year the average gain from energy related advice from across the network was more than £400. Advice gains generally for those who saw a benefit was over £3,700.
In a recent example of the help CABs have been giving people, a young single mum of three children sought help from a CAB after being encouraged by their friends and family.
She had recently separated from their partner and had to start working less to care for the children.
They remained in their owned family home and though the partner was paying child maintenance, the client found that their monthly budget simply wasn’t stretching far enough.
The client had not been in receipt of any benefits before, other than Child Benefit. The Adviser identified that the client was entitled to Universal Credit and Scottish Child Payment, which the bureau supported them to claim.
The Adviser then worked through the household expenditure with the client, identifying a cheaper energy provider saving just under £100 per month.
Having felt overwhelmed by the separation, the mum felt in control again and referred to the service as a ‘lifesaver’.
Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Derek Mitchell said: “As the weather turns cold it’s perfectly understandable that people are worried about their energy bills and keeping their homes warm.
“We’ve faced the worst cost of living crisis in living memory and people have had their financial resilience worn down.
“Our new campaign says to people it’s okay to be worried this winter, because the CAB network is here to help you regardless of your background or circumstances, our advice is free, impartial, and confidential.
“Lots of people may not realise that they don’t have to go to a CAB to get advice and information from our network. We have online self-help tools and advice pages that can help you see where you can cut your costs, boost your income, and understand your rights with your energy supplier.
“We get real results for people, last year the average gain for energy advice was more than £400. People who saw a gain from advice more broadly were £3,700 better off.
“We’re for everyone – whether you are in work or not, own your home or not, whether you have kids or not. If you’re worried this winter, our network is here for you in a way that suits you.”
Scottish Government energy minister Gillian Martin MSP said: “Energy bills remain significantly higher than this time two years ago, so campaigns like this are vitally important to ensure consumers are receiving the support they need.
“I would encourage anybody who is struggling with high energy bills or wider debt issues to contact the Citizens Advice network online or through their very experienced local network of bureaux.
“Last year, the Citizens Advice network helped many people access support they were entitled to and I hope this campaign can help them achieve the same this winter.”
Consumer Scotland chief executive Sam Ghibaldan said: “The typical energy bill is currently 50% higher than it was two years ago. Consumer Scotland research shows many Scottish households are continuing to struggle with their energy costs even before the onset of winter, so it is important consumers know how and where to access help and support when they need it.
“The financial pressure on consumers will only increase as the weather gets colder. Consumer Scotland is pleased to support this campaign to provide consumers with access to a range of information, including advice on their energy bills and debt.”
Harry Mayers, head of Home Energy Scotland said: “Home Energy Scotland are pleased to be supporting Citizens Advice Scotland with their ‘Worried this winter’ campaign to help people access the help and advice they need.
“We know this will be another difficult winter for Scottish households facing high energy bills. If you are worried about fuel bills, the good news is that there is financial support available through Home Energy Scotland and there are also some simple actions we can all take at home to help manage energy use while reducing energy bills.
“We know that improving the energy efficiency of our homes can make a big difference to energy bills now and in the future.
“Through Home Energy Scotland people can access financial support including grants and interest-free loans from the Scottish Government to make their home warmer and more energy efficient. Warmer Homes Scotland funding is also available for eligible households on lower incomes to help install heating and insulation.
“To date, the scheme has helped more than 35,000 households in Scotland on lower incomes benefit from help to install heating, insulation and more.”
Home Energy Scotland advisors can help people with practical and impartial advice on how to stay warm and manage energy use at home. Visit homeenergyscotland.org or call 0808 808 2282 for free.
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