360,000 households concerned about energy bills debt

Thousands of households are increasingly concerned about energy bill debt amid the “worst cost of living crisis in living memory”, according to new research.

Analysis of polling from YouGov by Citizens Advice Scotland found that 22 percent are worried about gas and electricity costs, particularly when it comes to falling into debt.

This is the equivalent of an estimated 368,249 people which is a sizable proportion of the population in Scotland.

These latest figures come amid skyrocketing levels of energy debt being reported across the Citizens Advice network.

According to the charity, the average energy debt for claimants seeking complex debt advice across the network is £2,307.

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For context, this is almost £500 higher compared to the same time last year which suggests the cost of living crisis is not improving for many.

At the same time, the calls for support on energy debt to the charity jumped by 34 percent between 2021/22 to 2022/23.

The Citizens Advice Scotland Social Justice spokesperson Matthew Lee highlighted why more support needs to be made available for the months ahead.

He explained: “This winter comes amid the worst cost of living crisis in living memory and lots of people, through no fault of their own, have found themselves behind on bills.

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“That’s because costs for essentials rose sharply as incomes flatlined. We estimate over 360,000 people in Scotland are worried about their debt to energy suppliers this winter.

The energy expert highlighted that there are three main reasons people are particularly worried about debt.

However, he also acknowledged that support is available through the Citizens Advice network which people should take advantage of.

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Mr Lee added: “Firstly repayments add an extra charge onto your bills, secondly the risk of being forced onto a prepayment meter increases and thirdly it stops you switching supplier should we ever be in a position where cheaper deals through switching returns to the market.

“The Citizens Advice network is here for people. We’re for everyone whether they are in work or not and you can get advice a variety of ways – from our online advice pages to interactive self-help tools.

“The average gain for people who saw a gain through our energy advice was over £400, while the average gain for advice more broadly was over £3,700.”

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