Winter has arrived and temperatures are getting colder. It is that time when we are heating our homes and keeping our families warm. For many households, however, that may not be an option.
Households in energy arrears grow by 300,000.
The number of households who already owe their energy suppliers has grown by more than 300,000 in the past year. A total of nearly £400m is owed to power companies. This is an increase of nearly a quarter on the same time last year. According to data from uSwitch nearly 2.9 million users were in debt to their suppliers, up from 2.62 million at the same time last year.
This comes after a whole round of price hikes over the last two years as wholesale cost has risen. Some of the big six suppliers have raised their tariffs twice this year. This will leave many households wondering if they can even afford to put the heating on. Normally, at this time of year households would be expected to be in credit, but this is just not the case.
Campaigners say these figures are a reminder of the “huge anxiety’ faced by many this winter. There are also concerns over vulnerable people, such as the elderly and families with children who are struggling. Charities say many more families are struggling to pay off debts while trying to keep a roof over their heads and meet basic bills.
Rik Smith, an energy expert at uSwitch, said: –
“With winter just around the corner, it’s important that households use this time to tackle rising bills. After so many price rises this year. A lot of people may have received a price rise notification over the summer but not switched to a cheaper deal.”
Fuel poverty groups said the government, regulators and the industry must do more to help the poorest this winter.
“Millions of people are approaching this winter with dread and will face unmanageable situations. Those who are repaying large or growing energy debts often don’t turn the heating on at all, despite knowing it could badly damage their or their families’ health,” said Peter Smith, the director of policy and research at National Energy Action.
About half of those in arrears said they would either pay it off in a lump sum or by increasing their direct debit payments. The rest either hoped the debt would “go down naturally over time”, or planned to agree a repayment plan with their supplier or fit a prepayment meter, or did not know.
uSwitch arrived at the figures from results of an opinion poll of 2,000 adults to the UK’s 27 million households. Official forecasts expect fuel poverty to worsen this year because of tariffs going up.
The industry body Energy UK said:
“If customers are struggling, the most important thing is to get in touch with their energy supplier as soon as possible so they can provide help and support.”
Getting help with debt problems is ‘vital.’
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