More people are seeking one-to-one support from Citizens Advice than at any point during the pandemic. That’s according to stark new figures released today which reveal the enormous pressures facing households even before the 54% increase* to energy bills kick in this April. Almost one in 10 (9%) of people nationwide are already in energy arrears, even before the price cap rise.
The charity warns that crisis support – including referrals to food banks and advice on emergency one-off grants – is at the highest level on record. Similarly, advice on managing energy debts has reached unprecedented heights.
How to support low-income households through the cost-of-living crisis
To help people weather the cost-of-living crisis, Citizens Advice is urging the government to adjust the package of measures.
This includes targeted support to low income households in line with inflation to be paid through the benefits system this April, and an expanded Warm Home Discount scheme for Winter 2022 when prices are due to rise again.
Naomi, Caseworker at Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire said:
“I am seeing desperation. People are having to rob Peter to pay Paul. Each week people need to decide which is their priority – do they pay for heating, rent or food. I have single men crying on the phone. Their heating is not on yet they can see the metre is running. It is terrifying.”
Teresa Archer, Chief Officer at Citizen Advice West Oxfordshire said:
“We know this is an extremely worrying time for many. With the 54% rise* to the energy price cap, the loss of the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift and increasing food costs, we encourage those people who are in debt or are struggling to budget to get in touch so we can help them through these challenging times. The £200 energy loan announced by Government last week will be given to all households in October 2022. Whilst this will help some people in the short term, it will still have to be paid back in the longer term keeping bills higher for longer.”
*The 54% energy price increase is based on the amount of energy units used.