Advertisement - Content continues below
News

600,000 people have fallen into fuel poverty during the pandemic

Campaigners said the Citizens Advice findings make clear “the time for fuel debt relief is now”

The Covid-19 crisis has pushed more than half a million people into debt on their fuel bills, new research shows, and more than two million are behind on payments.

The Citizens Advice findings “confirm the worst fears” about the impact of stay at home advice during winter, fuel poverty campaigners said, calling for fuel debt relief from the Government.

More than two million households are behind on their energy payments, the report said, meaning 600,000 more people have fallen into debt since the pandemic gripped the UK.

A quarter of the adults surveyed said they were worried about being unable to afford fuel bills this winter. This suggests up to seven million households had similar concerns heading into the colder months.

“The findings are truly shocking,” End Fuel Poverty Coalition coordinator Simon Francis told The Big Issue.

“They confirm the worst fears that a double whammy of stay at home instructions during colder weather would lead to more people in fuel poverty.

Advertisement - Content continues below
Advertisement - Content continues below

“Given we are so early on in the winter season and the worst weather is still to come, we need urgent action from energy firms and government to support those in fuel poverty.

“The time for fuel poverty debt relief, not just deferral of bills, is now.”

Those who have not come to a repayment arrangement with their supplier owe an average £760 for electricity and £605 for gas, Citizens Advice said.

The charity is urging suppliers to double down on proactive support for customers who fall into hardship during the pandemic after 59 per cent of people said the options they were offered after plunging into debt were helpful.

But the research showed one in seven people who tried to contact their supplier couldn’t get through, while call waiting times have increased for two thirds of suppliers – something campaigners say can pose a significant barrier to vulnerable people looking for help.

Energy companies “make finding phone numbers difficult” and are failing to respond to customer emails within two working days, the report said.

The full financial impacts of the pandemic are still to be felt

Suppliers should focus on offering additional support such as payment holidays or temporary prepay credit, according to Citizens Advice.

They also called for the government to make sure the hardest hit households are supported this winter through fuel vouchers, and said ministers should provide extra funding to help people not covered by existing schemes like the Covid Winter Grant – a £170 million fund for local authorities to help struggling families with food and bills.

“The government and the energy industry have put in place significant measures to support people’s incomes and help those struggling with their bills,” Citizens Advice acting chief executive Alistair Cromwell said.

“We’re heading into the coldest months of the year and the full financial impacts of the pandemic are still to be felt. Maintaining high customer service standards is more critical than ever in order to make sure energy customers who get into difficulty can access the support they need.”

Advertisement - Content continues below

Support your local vendor

Give your vendor a hand up and buy the magazine. Big Issue vendors are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. But, at the same time, they are micro-entrepreneurs. By supporting their business, you can help them overcome homelessness, financial instability and other social disadvantages that hold them back.

Recommended for you

Read All
'Act now or street homelessness will skyrocket', ministers warned
News

'Act now or street homelessness will skyrocket', ministers warned

Plans to 'modernise' working life will allow employees to request flexibility from day one
Employment

Plans to 'modernise' working life will allow employees to request flexibility from day one

Insulate Britain: Who are the protesters and why do they keep blocking the M25?
Activism

Insulate Britain: Who are the protesters and why do they keep blocking the M25?

Biden has launched his plan to end homelessness in the US – where’s the UK’s?
News

Biden has launched his plan to end homelessness in the US – where’s the UK’s?

Most Popular

Read All
More than 70 MPs back motion to stop ministers lying in parliament
1.

More than 70 MPs back motion to stop ministers lying in parliament

The Big Issue vendor who became London’s happiest bus driver is now bringing drinking water to Africa
2.

The Big Issue vendor who became London’s happiest bus driver is now bringing drinking water to Africa

Climate crisis laid bare as new map illustrates threat of rising sea levels
3.

Climate crisis laid bare as new map illustrates threat of rising sea levels

Shaun Ryder: 'It will always be one rule for them and another rule for us'
4.

Shaun Ryder: 'It will always be one rule for them and another rule for us'