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Fuel bills: Scottish CABs seeing more ‘crisis cases’ than ever

Citizens Advice Scotland have published mid-year figures which show that Scottish CABs are seeing more ‘crisis cases’ about fuel bills than ever before.

Yesterday we revealed that Scottish CABs saw a total of 10,500 cases related to energy bills last year. This was considered a huge figure at the time. But today we can reveal that the equivalent figures this year are on course to be even higher: in the six months since 1st April, Scottish CABs have already seen a total of 7,652 people seeking help with their energy bills.

CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says,

“We normally don’t reveal interim figures like this before the end of the full year. But in the light of the new increases in fuel bills we thought it was important to show the full extent of this problem, from our perspective.

“And our perspective is important. People don’t generally come to the CAB about issues like fuel bills until they are very concerned about them. So these are ‘crisis cases’ that we are talking about: people who really don’t know how they’re going to be able to pay their bills. And these cases have been reaching unprecedented levels - even before this latest increase in bills.

“As of this week, Scottish CAB advisers have helped 7,652 people with energy bill advice since April. That’s only the first half of the year, and of course it covers the warmest period. We would expect to see a rise in the rate of such cases as winter sets in. So, in other words, we anticipate that this year’s total number of fuel bill cases will be well over the numbers we saw last year, or indeed in any other year that we have on record.

“The good news is that there are things we can do to help people. CAB advisers are trained to look at ways of maximising peoples’ incomes, link them with energy schemes that may cut their bills, and help them plan their finances generally.

“Of course there are limits to what we can do, and we can’t help in every case, but our advice is always free, confidential and impartial. And indeed the high number of cases we have seen may in part reflect the fact that people know the CAB is the place to go for help with consumer issues. Later this month we will join with the government and others to run a huge information campaign, telling people about the many practical ways that can help them cut their bills.

“However, the fact that help is available should not mask the grave extent of this problem. Over one third of Scots are living in fuel poverty, and those who are hurting most are the really vulnerable people like pensoners, disabled people and low-income families with young children. Too many people are going into this winter knowing they’ll be unable to heat their homes and feed their families properly, and further increases in fuel bills will only make things worse.”

For more information, please contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655.