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CAS call for action on fuel poverty 'crisis'

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) have called for government action to help people in fuel poverty, as a new consumer report revealed that 1 in 4 UK households is now classed as ‘fuel poor’.

The report, published today by the consumer body U-Switch, says that 6.3million UK households are now in fuel poverty.

Responding, CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said,

“These are truly shocking statistics, and I’m afraid they are borne out by the evidence from Scottish CABs over recent years. Indeed, our advisers have been reporting for some time now that many people are coming to them saying they can’t pay their fuel bills, and as a consequence are getting into debt, or are having to choose between paying the bills and putting food on the table.

“The U-Switch report is right to say that the problem is affecting people from all backgrounds. But many of the people who are worst affected are those who are most vulnerable to begin with - including pensioners, and people who are unemployed, sick and disabled. And of course here in Scotland the implications are particularly bad for those unable to heat their homes properly through the cold winters.

“The cost of living is going up right across the board, with inflation, VAT increases and of course ever-increasing fuel bills. These factors, coupled with the general drop in incomes, are putting households in a classic squeeze. People are having to pay more with less.

“Scotland’s CABs are in the front line of helping people who are worried about their finances. To respond to this growing crisis we have recently launched a new ‘Money Advice Service,’ with trained financial advisers who can help people in just this sort of situation – including those in fuel poverty. Like all CAB services, this expert financial advice is free, confidential and independent, and can be accessed from any CAB.

“But the scale of this problem is so large now that action is needed from government to help those who are struggling, and to address the huge prices in the fuel market. We simply can’t have a situation, in the year 2011, where so many of our people are unable to afford an adequate supply of fuel.”