'More Scots' struggling with energy bills, CAS says

  • 25 October 2015
  • From the section Scotland

There has been a "clear growth" in the numbers of Scots who are struggling to pay their energy bills, according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

The organisation said it had seen a 130% increase in energy advice cases in the past four years.

It said low pay, high living costs and welfare reforms had been key drivers behind many cases it had dealt with.

The Department of Energy said its top priority was to keep bills low for hardworking families and businesses.

CAS has called for action across a range of issues including long call waiting times, billing errors and additional support for consumers in vulnerable situations.

It also said debt collection repayments were often set too high and highlighted welfare reform and social security sanctions as being "tied intrinsically" to a household's ability to sufficiently heat their home.

'Fuel poverty'

CAS consumer spokeswoman Sarah Beattie-Smith said: "Our case evidence also highlights the key issues that have affected consumers' ability to heat their homes over this period.

"These include; low pay, under-employment, increased living costs and rising debt, in addition to the impact of austerity policies such as below-inflation benefit payments, the bedroom tax, benefit sanctions and long waits for benefit assessments."

Ms Beattie-Smith added: "The levels of fuel poverty in Scotland are higher than ever, and all over the country there are families who yet again this winter will face the devastating choice of whether to heat their home or put food on the table."

'Taking action'

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: "Our top priority is to keep bills low for hardworking families and businesses, no matter where they live.

"We are already taking action to protect bill payers who live in areas where cost of distributing electricity is high.

"This year we have provided £57m of funding through our scheme to support bills payers who are charged more for their energy."

CAS advised on a total of 28,000 energy issues in 2014/15 , a reported increase of 33% from the previous year.

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