Posted: Tue 24th Oct 2023

Alarm bells ring as Citizens Advice Cymru spotlights escalating energy debt crisis in vulnerable Welsh households

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Oct 24th, 2023

Citizens Advice Cymru is urging further government action to support low income households as data shows vulnerable households struggling with energy costs ahead of this winter.

The charity’s new Wales Cost of Living Dashboard shows that people needing support for energy debt continues to hit record highs, and there’s growing concern about the numbers of people unable to top up their prepayment meters.

Across Wales, Citizens Advice has already helped more people unable to top up their prepayment meters this year than it did in the whole of 2022. The number of people helped in 2022 was more than the previous ten years combined.

Around 200,000 households in Wales use prepayment meters (PPMS) to pay for their mains gas and electricity. Whilst PPMs can help people to budget and stay in control of their energy use, it is also more expensive.

If they can’t afford to top-up their meters it can lead to people being disconnected from an energy supply, unable to turn the heating on, cook a hot meal or even keep essential medical equipment going.

The charity says their newest data indicates that this winter may be even worse than last winter, unless the government acts on energy bills. They have also helped more people with energy debts than at this point in any other year.

With another winter fast approaching, the number of people coming for advice on energy debt across Wales remains worryingly high.

Despite the fall in the energy price cap from October to December – to an average £1,834 a year for those who pay by direct debit, and £1,861 for PPM users – bills remain significantly higher than before the crisis began.

The price cap is currently predicted to rise again in the new year. Citizens Advice believes that energy affordability is a long-term problem that needs a long-term solution. A social tariff and improving energy efficiency would protect millions of people from spending excessive amounts on their bills.

The charity is calling on the Welsh Government to look at stepping in this winter with additional support targeted at those facing greatest hardship and/or higher costs, such as low income households with children or with a disabled person in the household through a Wales cost of living payment.

Simon Hatch, Director of Citizens Advice Cymru, said:

“This winter looks set to be even more difficult for thousands of people in Wales.

“Energy costs remain high and compared to last year, government support available for low income households has been reduced. This is alongside other rising costs and the pressures of inflation.

“We are helping more and more people who are living on empty. With the colder months fast approaching, the number of people going without gas or electricity or falling into energy debt will increase. Medium-term solutions such as an energy social tariff are important but we cannot ignore the immediate crisis we’re facing.

“What we really need to see is targeted cash support for low income households with children and low income households with disabled people.”

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