Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) are warning that the combination of the ongoing recession and the recent cold snap will create a ‘nightmare’ for many Scots when their winter fuel bills arrive over the next few weeks.
With consumer experts predicting that bills could rise by at least ten percent as a result of the recent cold weather, CAS Chief Executive Ms Kaliani Lyle said today (Tuesday),
“Over the next few days and weeks people will start to receive their bills for the fuel they have used over the Christmas and New Year period. This is always a time of real concern - particularly for those on low incomes - because fuel use over the winter is so high.
"Unfortunately, it is likely that this year's winter fuel bills might be even worse than usual, given the fact that the winter has been so cold and the fact that many people are already suffering financial worries due to the recession. This year's bills could be a real nightmare, and people should probably prepare for the worst.
"The important thing however is that people shouldn't panic when the bills come through, even if they are much higher than anticipated. Experience shows that the temptation is either to ignore the bills altogether - which means you run up late payment charges - or to pay them using credit cards or a bank overdraft, which just runs up further debt. Neither of these steps is the right solution.
"We advise people to keep calm, and seek help. The good news is that there is more help available in Scotland this year than ever before. People can come to their local CAB, where they will receive expert money advice. They can also take advantage of a new service called the Energy Assistance Package, which is a free phoneline that offers advice and assistance to anyone who calls - including practical and financial help in many cases. The freephone number is 0800 512 012.
"So, when the fuel bills arrive, our advice is simple: Don't Panic. Get Advice. And of course if you know anyone who is particularly vulnerable, make sure you pass this information on to them so they get all the help they need.”
For more information, or to arrange interviews etc., please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010 or (out of normal office hours) 07774 751655. (We can provide a CAS spokesperson to give a Scotland-wide perspective, or a local CAB official in any part of the country, to give a local community perspective).
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
1.The organisation ‘Moneysupermarket.com’ predicted last week (18 January) that winter energy bills could rise by at least 10percent as a result of the recent cold weather. See https://www.moneysupermarket.com/press-releases/big-freeze-to-hit-bill-payers-in-the-wallet/
2.The Energy Assistance Package is a government-run scheme, introduced last year to replace the Warm Deal and the Central Heating Programme. It offers a freephone service (0800 512 012) which will provide advice for everyone who calls, and real financial and practical help for those most in need. It was set up on the recommendation of the Fuel Poverty Forum, which included Citizens Advice Scotland as well as Energy Action Scotland and other groups. More information at https://beta.gov.scot/policies/housing-and-independent-living/