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Countdown to the energy cap rise

by Stephanie Millar, CAS policy manager (Social Justice team). 

This article was first published in the Herald on 26 September 2022.

Next Monday the long-dreaded energy cap rise will happen. The new Prime Minister has tried to off-set it by announcing the Energy Price Guarantee coupled with financial help with bills. Indeed, barely a day goes by without some announcement – grants on bills, additional payments depending on circumstances, price cap changes – it's confusing to say the least.

But the bottom line is how do you know what you will get, and will it be enough?  

To summarise: on 1st October energy bills will be capped at £2500, rather than the expected £3500. And as this cap is in place for two years, the projected price cap estimate for January next year of an eye watering £5500 will no longer happen.

Viewed in isolation, these numbers may make you breathe a sigh of relief - but only because the fear of £3500 was so high. When you look at it in comparison to previous price caps, it’s a different picture. £2500 is still a huge amount when you consider a year ago the price cap was £1227, half what is coming next week.  

The government support measures, combined with the restriction on the price cap, are welcome and could mean the difference for some people between freezing or starving, and for some even managing to live independently. Many disabled or older people, for example, use additional energy for medical or assistance equipment that is crucial to their lives.  

However, it’s important to remember that many people were already struggling with their energy bills even before the cap crisis of the last few months. 

Earlier this year, before the last price cap, one in three people seen by the Scottish CAB network was unable to pay their fuel bills, and official figures show that a quarter of Scottish households are living in fuel poverty. Recent estimates, before the October cap was announced, have suggested this could rise to in excess of 50%.  

So, will the government assistance measures be enough? They may be for some. Those who managed well before the cost of living crisis will continue to manage. Some, who were just about managing, might find that the support is just enough to help them keep on managing, in the short term at least. But those who are already struggling are likely to continue to struggle.  

When I was a CAB adviser, I remember seeing people who would come in with un-opened bills, sometimes a bag full of them, because they literally couldn’t face them. Coming to the CAB was a first step for some in acknowledging their difficulties, a recognition that something needed to be done and that they needed help to do it.

And if that’s you, we are still here to help in this current crisis. An affordable payment plan with your supplier, income maximisation, debt management, even just a sympathetic ear. We don’t judge, we just help.  

The first step is facing up to the problem. Even if you feel worried or scared, avoiding your energy bills won’t make them go away. Sticking your head in the sand is never a solution when it comes to money problems. So let the CAB network help you. Our advice adds up.