AS WINTER approaches, the Citizens Advice Bureau is urging the government and suppliers to boost awareness of what help is available.
In a new partnership CAB has teamed up with the EDF Energy Trust to provide access to their grants programme for clients with fuel debts across south Essex.
During the first two quarters of this financial year, from April to September 2009, Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales have seen a 46% increase in the number of clients with fuel debts compared to the same period last year.
This surge of CAB clients in debt to their fuel supplier continues an upward trend that has seen enquiries to bureaux about this issue rise 82% in the three years since 2005/6.
The profile of CAB clients with fuel debt throughout 2008/09 show that the majority are of working age – only 5% are over 65 years old, 80% were earning half of the average income, 32% had incomes of under £400 a month and 25% had a disability.
As winter approaches, and fuel bills will inevitably get higher, the charity is keen that people are aware of the help they can get.
Manager of Thurrock CAB Mike Rawlings said:
“We are already seeing large increases in the number of people in fuel debt and it is not yet winter. With fuel prices remaining at historically high levels it is essential that people get all the help that is available.
“Recent government increases in “Warm Front Grants” and “Cold Weather Payments” will go someway towards helping but information on what help is available, targeted to those who are most vulnerable, must be a prime focus for the government and energy companies.
“Our partnership with the EDF Energy Trust means that we can assist in applications to the Trust for financial help with fuel debts for EDF customers across south Essex by contacting our project officer on 01375 389513 and leaving your details or visit your local bureau.
Thurrock CAB has the following top tips for people struggling with, or worried about fuel payments.
1. You might be able to reduce your costs by changing fuel supplier. Shop around for the best deal and compare. Ask about different tariffs and ways to pay and make sure prices quoted include VAT.
Even without changing supplier you could save money – speak to your existing supplier and check that you’re on the best tariff for you.
2. You may be eligible for what’s called a ‘social tariff’ which offers cheaper prices to low-income or vulnerable customers, such as older people, or people with long-term ill health. For more information, contact your fuel supplier.
3. You may be able to take advantage of one of the various energy efficiency schemes and grants that are available, such as the Warm & Healthy Homes Partnership: 0800 980 6022.
If you are over 60 you could be entitled to Winter Fuel payments or Cold Weather payments if you are under 60 but on a low income. The Home Heat Helpline: 0800 33 66 99