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
- Check you are on the best deal with your current supplier and whether there is a better way you can pay your bills. Most suppliers offer a discount if you pay by direct debit, on average around £100, compared to paying your bill by cash or cheque.
- Make sure you are getting all the financial help you are eligible for. Up to £20 billion of benefits went unclaimed in 2011. Your supplier might be able to offer you a discount if you are on certain benefits too. Speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau who can help.
- Switch to a better deal with a new supplier, particularly if you have never switched before. You could potentially save as much as £200 or more by shopping around. A list of accredited websites can be found at www.consumerfocus.org.uk/get-advice/energy/confidence-code
- If you use heating oil, consider joining or setting up a local oil buying club [16 kb]. You might be able to negotiate a discount with suppliers if you are buying in bulk. Also, buy early before winter and you might get it cheaper.
- Insulate the loft and cavity walls of your home is a great way to save money on your heating bills, up to £160 per year if you do both. Most major energy suppliers are also offering this free or at a reduced price. Act now before winter!
- You might also be able to get some help with improving the efficiency of your property from Government funded schemes if you are on a low income. There are different schemes for Scotland, England and Wales.
- There are also lots of small things you can do for free or at low cost around the home to save money on your energy bills saving, on average, up to £195 per year. You can find out more by calling the Energy Saving Trust on 0300 123 1234 or fill out an online home energy check at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Insulation/Home-Energy-Check
*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.