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Parents worried they won't be able to afford next energy bill

22 October 2012

Over six million children in Britain have parents who are worried they won’t be able to afford their next energy bill. And almost half of parents said they would cut back on their food shopping to pay for other household bills.

This year Santa's purse strings have also tightened as1 in 2 parents say they'll spend less this Christmas.

So says Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland as they urge families and households across the country to save money on their fuel bills during Big Energy Saving Week: 22 - 27 October by checking they are on the best deal and cheapest way to pay, using less energy and keeping the heat in through insulation.

Citizens Advice are calling on people to 'check, switch and insulate' to make sure that they are making the biggest possible saving. They also warned people not to wait until plans from Ofgem or the Government to sort our energy bills are rolled out as they won’t help to cut their bills this winter.

The new figures* also found that two thirds of people think their energy bill will be higher this winter – with many living in colder homes than they would like; 62% don’t having the heating on as much and 18% are not using some rooms in their home in a bid to cut the size of their energy bills.  

Despite this only a quarter had checked with their supplier to see if they were on the best deal and just 16% had changed to another energy company.

It’s not just energy bills that people are worried about: 3 in every 5 have tightened their belt this year to cope with other rising daily costs.  But despite the squeeze on finances, only one in three households are using less electricity and just under a third have insulated their homes, with even fewer 25-34 year olds (23%) taking this step to keep the heat in.

People who thought their bill would be lower this winter than last had taken action to get a better deal - 30% had switched to another energy company and 1 in 3 had checked with their supplier to make sure they were on the best deal. Thirty eight per cent had insulated their home and nearly half (46%) were using less electricity.

In the last 12 months, Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales helped clients with over 95,600 fuel debt problems.

To ease the strain on budgets there will be 400 Big Energy Saving Week events across Britain helping people save money on their energy bills including big events in London and Bridgend.  Advice is also available online at bigenergysavingweek.org.uk, on the phone 0300 123 1234 or through your local CAB.

Citizens Advice, Chief Executive, Gillian Guy said:

"People must check, switch and insulate to make sure that they’re getting the best deal for their energy.

"Big energy bills and rising daily costs are putting extra pressure on household budgets that are already stretched thin.  We’re worried that some people are finding themselves unnecessarily hard-up because they’re paying more than they have to for their fuel bill and aren’t getting all of the help that’s available to them.

"Throughout Big Energy Saving Week we’re helping the nation prepare for winter and putting money back in people’s pockets."

Big Energy Saving Week is funded by the largest six energy companies – British Gas, EDF Energy, EON, Npower, SSE and Scottish Power, and involves the Energy Saving Trust, Age UK, ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), Consumer Focus, the Government, Ofgem, Energy UK and National Energy Action.

There are also 17 innovative projects that will help people lower their fuel bills during and beyond Big Energy Saving Week – from an ‘A team’ of advisers heading to the Isle of Scilly to help the 23% of islanders who are in fuel poverty to pre-payment customers in Copeland being offered loans through a credit union to have their pre-payment meter removed; putting them on a cheaper way to pay for their fuel.

Edward Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said:

"Winter energy costs are a big worry for millions of families, and I want Big Energy Saving Week to get advice to as many people as possible on how to get those bills down. There is action you can take to make sure you are getting the best deal for your gas and electricity. There are ways to save money by insulating your home and cutting out energy waste, and there is help available from the Government for those struggling the most."

During Big Energy Saving Week advisers from CAB, local Age UKs and ACRE will be out and about at supermarkets, town halls, libraries and even market stalls explaining how people can cut their energy bills by an average total of up to £650** a year.

Big Energy Saving Week top tips to cut bills

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*TNS OnLineBus interviewed 2431 GB adults aged 16yrs+ between 3 - 8 October 2012.

**based on calculations on average savings that could be made by switching to another supplier, changing to direct debit payments, using less energy and insulating your home.

Citizens Advice

Notes to editors:

  1. This year the Citizens Advice service celebrates its 75th anniversary. We’ve planned a year of activity running from January to December 2014. Contact the press office to find out more.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at www.adviceguide.org.uk
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or 08454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  6. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.