Citizens Advice Scotland has warned that more than a fifth of people are worried about energy debt this winter.
More than 360,000 people, or 22%, are “worried or anxious” about arrears, the charity warned.
The average energy debt for individuals seeking complex debt advice across the network is £2,307 – up nearly £500 compared to the same time last year.
Demand for advice on energy debt from the CAB network rose by 34% from 2021/22 to 2022/23.
CAS is running the “Worried this winter” campaign, encouraging people to seek advice from the network in a variety of ways.
A disabled man sought advice from his local CAB after he built up £2,000 of debt to his energy supplier, as after a reduction in his universal credit, he is struggling to cover everyday expenses.
Another woman sought advice from her local CAB after getting a letter from her energy supplier advising her that she was in arrears for the first time in her life, leading to suicidal thoughts.
CAS social justice spokesperson Matthew Lee said: “This winter comes amid the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory and lots of people, through no fault of their own, have found themselves behind on bills.
“That’s because costs for essentials rose sharply as incomes flatlined. We estimate over 360,000 people in Scotland are worried about their debt to energy suppliers this winter.
“There are three big reasons why it’s totally understandable to be worried about that debt – firstly repayments add an extra charge onto your bills, secondly the risk of being forced onto a prepayment meter increases and thirdly it stops you switching supplier should we ever be in a position where cheaper deals through switching returns to the market.
“The Citizens Advice network is here for people. We’re for everyone whether they are in work or not and you can get advice a variety of ways – from our online advice pages to interactive self-help tools.
“The average gain for people who saw a gain through our energy advice was over £400, while the average gain for advice more broadly was over £3,700.”
People can visit www.cas.org.uk/worried for advice.
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