Advertisement - Content continues below
Social Justice

Demand for energy bills advice soars by 9,000% amid gas crisis

Millions face a “double whammy” of soaring fuel bills and the universal credit cut, Citizens Advice warned as the gas price crisis worsened.

The number of people looking online for information on their energy bills has soared by more than 9,000 per cent in a week amid the gas price crisis, according to Citizens Advice.

Millions will be plunged into financial catastrophe through a “double whammy” of soaring gas prices and the universal credit cut, the experts warned, after online analysis revealed the number of people desperate for help.

Between September 11 and September 18, the charity recorded a 9,300 per cent increase – from 155 to 14,500 – in the number of people looking for information about who was taking over their energy supply.

This followed warnings that soaring wholesale gas costs – which have increased by 250 per cent since April due to depleted supplies, increasing demand and US refineries closed by extreme weather – are devastating the UK’s energy sector, pushing suppliers out of business and putting households at risk of going cold in the winter months.

The energy price cap means companies cannot pass the cost onto customers. But 15 million households face soaring fuel bills anyway after Ofgem announced it will increase the cap by 12 per cent on October 1.

Article continues below

Just five days later, the government will scrap the £20-per-week universal credit increase introduced at the start of the pandemic, cutting more than £1,000 from the annual incomes of nearly six million families.

Advertisement - Content continues below
Advertisement - Content continues below

“This is a hugely unsettling time for millions of energy customers,” said Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“It’s particularly worrying for many on the lowest incomes who’ll be facing the double whammy of rising fuel bills and a benefits cut.

“With choppy waters ahead, the single best thing the government can do is keep its lifeline of £20-a-week to universal credit.”

Nearly four million UK households are already behind on their energy bills, according to the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, and the price hike will push about 488,000 into hardship.

The energy cap rise would come “at the worst possible time for millions of households across the country”, a spokesperson for the organisation said.

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work. With each subscription we invest every penny back into supporting the network of sellers across the UK. A subscription also means you'll never miss the weekly editions of an award-winning publication, with each issue featuring the leading voices on life, culture, politics and social activism.

It was “difficult to put into words just how devastating” the rise will be for struggling families, they added, warning low-income households on pre-pay meters would be most at risk of “facing the stark choice between heating and eating”.

The fuel bills increase will most affect those “hit hardest by the impacts of Covid and lockdown,” said William Baker from Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty, urging the government to scrap the universal credit cut.

Energy company Bulb, which is the country’s sixth largest provider and has 1.7m customers, announced on Monday that it was seeking a government bailout to avoid going bust.

A handful of smaller energy suppliers have already folded, including Utility Point and People’s Energy. British Gas agreed to take on 350,000 customers from the latter.

Green, an energy provider with around 250,000 customers, announced it is facing administration and in talks with insolvency advisers.

Stop Mass Homelessness

Help us stop mass homelessness

Unless we act, the UK is facing a homelessness crisis 
this autumn.

The number of UK energy companies could dwindle from around 70 to just 10 by the end of the year if the gas price crisis does not improve, experts warned. But Business Secretary Kwasi Karteng said failing suppliers were unlikely to get government bailouts.

“I do not think it’s the right thing for taxpayers’ money to be injected into companies that have been badly run,” he said, but suggested the government could give loans to larger companies absorbing customers from suppliers which have folded.

But he insisted ministers would support vulnerable families facing fuel poverty, adding: “There is absolutely no question of the lights going out or people being unable to heat their homes.” 

Advertisement - Content continues below

Support The Big Issue and our vendors this Christmas

Every time you buy a copy of The Big Issue, subscribe or donate, you are helping our vendors to work their way out of poverty by providing 'a hand up not a hand out.' You’re helping Big Issue vendors achieve their #BigWish

Recommended for you

Read All
Kitmas campaign will give football shirts to thousands of children in poverty this Christmas
Charity

Kitmas campaign will give football shirts to thousands of children in poverty this Christmas

These are the charities helping refugees in the UK
Refugees

These are the charities helping refugees in the UK

MPs join calls for Windrush compensation scheme to be taken off Home Office
Windrush Scandal

MPs join calls for Windrush compensation scheme to be taken off Home Office

Food banks are giving out almost 2,000 emergency parcels to children every day
Food banks

Food banks are giving out almost 2,000 emergency parcels to children every day

Most Popular

Read All
Video showing Boris Johnson repeatedly 'lying' to parliament hits 40 million views
1.

Video showing Boris Johnson repeatedly 'lying' to parliament hits 40 million views

Legacy benefits freeze left disabled people living on ‘historically’ low payments, court hears
2.

Legacy benefits freeze left disabled people living on ‘historically’ low payments, court hears

'Noel Gallagher was mega hungover and Will.i.am kept walking off' - The stories behind Big Issue photoshoots
3.

'Noel Gallagher was mega hungover and Will.i.am kept walking off' - The stories behind Big Issue photoshoots

Plans to remove British citizenship without notice 'would repeat Windrush mistakes'
4.

Plans to remove British citizenship without notice 'would repeat Windrush mistakes'