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4 in 5 low income households concerned about winter fuel bills

23 Hydref 2013

Pensioners, low earners and disabled people across the UK are living in uncomfortably cold homes and concerned about how they will afford their fuel bill this winter, a survey of people helped by Energy Best Deal finds.

New figures released today (Wednesday 23 October 2013) find 4 in 5 people on low incomes, who received help from the Energy Best Deal project, are concerned about the cost of this winter’s fuel bill.

Winter fuel bills are a financial strain for a fifth of low income households with a further 6% saying they are already in debt to their energy supplier as their bills are impossible to manage.

Worryingly, people are resorting to living in cold conditions as 2 in 5 say they are unable to heat their home to a comfortable level.  A third of those facing chilly homes this winter are retired.

Energy Best Deal, which is run by Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland and Ofgem, and is funded by energy suppliers, provides help to reduce the energy bills of the poorest households across the country.

Forty-five per cent of people surveyed had never switched energy suppliers and 59% had never switched to a different tariff with the same supplier.

The new findings are from the Energy Best Deal project which gives practical, face to face advice to low earners on how to reduce their energy costs. The sessions cover a range of topics including understanding your bill; getting to grips with the different tariffs and payment methods; what to do if you are in debt with your fuel company; how to use less energy; and help that is available towards energy costs and to make homes more energy efficient.

Following an Energy Best Deal session 77% of people surveyed said they would take action to tackle their energy bills.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“People should not face a winter of cold discomfort because they cannot afford to turn the heating on.  That’s why, through Energy Best Deal, we are there to help people make sure they aren’t paying over the odds to put the lights on and have a warm home.”

Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Margaret Lynch said:

“The issue of fuel poverty is particularly acute in Scotland, because of our colder climate.  Over a third of households in Scotland are in fuel poverty. That is an awful figure, and shows the urgent need for schemes like Energy Best Deal, to give real practical help to people on how they can cut their energy costs. Fuel bills are continuing to rise, as household incomes fall. CAB advisers in Scotland often hear people say they are having to choose between eating and heating. Nobody in 2013 should have to make that choice, and certainly not pensioners, sick and disabled people, or families with young children. Yet these are the groups who are among the worst hit by fuel poverty, and who are least able to cope with high bills.  So we urge people to make use of the help that is available. People can get Energy Best Deal advice from their local CAB, or can call our consumer helpline 08454 040 506.”

Sarah Harrison, Senior Partner - Sustainable Development, said:

“At a time when prices are rising and the weather is starting to turn colder, it’s important that consumers don’t pay more than they need to for their energy. That’s where the Energy Best Deal programme can provide essential advice to customers. As well as supporting Energy Best Deal, Ofgem’s radical reforms to reset the energy market and make it simpler, clearer and fairer for consumers are coming into effect right now and these will include making suppliers tell customers what their cheapest tariff is. Both the reforms and the Energy Best Deal initiative are important steps in giving customers the tools they need to get the most out of the energy market.”

The project has helped 250,000 people with their energy bills since it launched in 2008.  As well as helping consumers, Energy Best Deal also trains those who do support roles, such as staff at housing associations and children’s centres, giving them knowledge that they can use to  help the people they work with save money on their bills.  

Ten top tips to save you money on energy bills  

  1. Speak to your energy company to see if you can get a cheaper deal, or switch supplier. You could save up to £200 by switching supplier, and maybe even more if you have never switched before.
  2. Do a home energy check to find out about savings of up to £250 a year on household energy bills. Visit the Energy Savings Trust home energy check at:
  3. You might be able to save up to £100 if you pay your bill by Direct Debit.
  4. When making a brew only fill the kettle with the amount of water you need.
  5. Save energy by making sure your washing machine is full when you use it and by washing your clothes at 30 degrees.
  6. Turning down the thermostat in your home by 1oc could cut heating bills by 10%
  7. Make your home less draughty by sealing gaps in your windows and doors, and fit a draught flap on your letterbox.
  8. Energy saving light bulbs last up to ten times longer and can save round £45 over the lifetime of the bulb.
  9. Fix taps and make sure they are fully turned off – a dripping hot water tap can waste enough energy in a single week to fill half a bath.
  10. Save money by switching lights off when you leave a room.  If you turn a light off for even a few seconds, you will save more energy than it takes the light to start up again, no matter what sort of lights you have. Turn appliances off standby and unplug mobile phones when they have finished charging.

More information on saving energy in your home is available from the Energy Saving Trust

Extra help

ECO - Energy Companies Obligation scheme (England, Scotland and Wales)

This is a government scheme to help people get all or part of the cost of loft or cavity wall insulation or boiler repairs or replacements. Help is offered to people in low-income households and properties that are harder to treat. If you are eligible, you can get these measures from any energy supplier, whether or not they actually supply energy to you.

NEST (Wales)

Nest is the Welsh Government’s scheme to help households in Wales, providing advice on how to save energy and money. They also help some people on low incomes get a new boiler, insulation and renewable technologies.

Home Energy Efficiency Programme Scotland (HEEPS) (Scotland)

HEEPS is the Scottish Government's scheme to help with the cost of loft and cavity wall insulation, boiler repairs or replacements, draught proofing and getting room thermostats and heating controls.

Warm Home Discount

Energy suppliers offer extra help for people on low incomes.  If you are eligible you could get a £135 rebate on your electricity bill for winter 2013 -2014.

Winter Fuel Payment

If you are a pensioner you could get £100-£300 to help pay your winter bills.  You need to have been born on or before 5 January 1952 to get the winter fuel payment this year.

Cold Weather Payment

If you get pension credit or other eligible benefits you could get a £25 payment if the temperature where you live drops to an average of 0°C or lower for 7 days between 1 November and 31 March.

Priority Services Register

The Priority Services Register is run by energy suppliers and offers free services for older people and those with disabilities including priority reconnection following a power cut, a service to take regular meter readings if you’re unable to do it yourself, and bills tailored to your needs, including large print and Braille.

Home Heat Helpline

Find out about help you can get from your energy company if you are having difficulties paying your fuel bill by calling the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699.

More information on energy help available at Citizens Advice webpages on saving money on energy bills

Notes to editors

  1. The findings are from a survey of 3,429 consumers who took part in Energy Best Deal. There were also 150 interviews conducted. Research took place between January and May 2013.
  2. Over the winter of 2012/13, 868 Energy Best Deal sessions were delivered, directly training 5,602 consumers and 3,334 frontline workers. By spring 2014, an estimated 500,000 additional consumers will benefit as a result of frontline workers passing on what they have learnt.
  3. Energy Best Deal has been running since 2008 and will continue into 2014 with funding from British Gas, EDF Energy, First Utility, SSE and ScottishPower. Sessions will be across England, Scotland and Wales.  
  4. Energy Best Deal 2012/2013 was funded by E.ON, EDF Energy, SSE and ScottishPower.  
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.