Rising numbers struggling with fuel bills - debt charity

More effort needed in energy sector
More effort needed in energy sector

A debt help charity is seeing growing numbers of people falling behind with fuel bills and a resurgence in the proportion of clients with high-cost credit such as payday loans.

StepChange Debt Charity said the proportion of clients in arrears with council tax is also “stubbornly high”.

In the first half of 2018, 13.1% of all new clients were behind on a gas or electricity bill compared with 11.4% in the first half of 2017.

The charity said the increase coincides with some companies having already raised prices this year.

While some customers could potentially reduce their bills by switching, those facing financial difficulty may be nervous of the complexity of price tariffs and wary of being caught out and put in an even worse financial position, StepChange said.

StepChange wants more utility providers to establish flexible repayment schemes, as well as sharing effective good practice on working with people who are struggling to pay to minimise their costs.

Just over 60% of the charity’s new clients in the first half of 2018 were women. The charity said women make up the majority of single parents contacting it for help.

A total of 326,897 people contacted the charity for help with their debts in the first six months of 2018.