MILLIONS of Brits face falling into debt over energy costs from the winter lockdown, charities have warned.
Families already struggling are likely to be hardest hit because of the covid restrictions, with kids at home because of school closures and falling temperatures.
Charities are calling on the government to give more support to those struggling, the Mirror reports.
Nearly 4million households in England were classed as being in energy debtbefore the coronavirus crisis, figures from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition show.
Millions more are likely to fall into debt over bills for gas and electric, with an estimated 7million expected to struggle paying their energy bills this winter because of the pandemic, according to Citizens Advice.
Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of campaigning charity National Energy Action (NEA), told the newspaper: “Some parents are so desperate they are debating sending their kids to their unvaccinated grandparents home for a bit of warmth.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “With everyone spending longer at home and more on heating there is a real worry that older people will be running up debts or start rationing their use.”
What to do if you can’t pay your bills
FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.
If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.
Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.
One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.
You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.
A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.
To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income support
- income-related employment and support allowance
- Pension credit
- Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)
If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.
In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.
Research by the NEA found that families at home in lockdown living in cold and leaky properties pay more a month on energy bills compared to those living in homes that are well insulated.
Bills cost £124 per month, on average, for those without insulation versus £76 for those with it – a difference of £49.
According to Save the Children more than a quarter of families claiming Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit are already cutting back on heating and electricity.
The charity estimates that almost two-thirds have gone into debt, with somehaving to borrow money buy winter coats for their children.
A government spokesperson told the Mirror: “We are committed to ensuring nobody goes cold in their own home.”
Those struggling with food and bills can now get money and other support from their local council and the Winter Covid Grant Scheme.
It's one of many schemes out there which could help cover the cost of energy bills this winter – here are more which could save you more than £1,000.
Nearly half a million households will soon see their energy bills jump by an average of £171 a year unless they switch now.
Anyone on Universal Credit can get extra discounts over winter to help them through.
From drapes to bubble wrap — keep your home warm on the cheap with our top tips.
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