More people seeking advice as energy costs them dear
Fuel poverty in Scotland has witnessed a steep rise with more people seeking help for energy bills from consumer advice charities.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has published new evidence showing the extent of fuel poverty over the last few years, with the number of energy cases recorded by the service increasing by 130% since 2011.
The report blames government austerity policies, low pay and changes to the social security system for the increase.
The findings are published on the eve of Big Energy Savings Week, a UK-wide campaign in which government, charities and private companies work together to help people cut their energy costs.
There are families who will face the devastating choice of whether to heat their home or put food on the table
In 2013/14, the total number of energy issues dealt with by the Scottish CAB service increased by 49% from the previous year (from 14,131 to 21,101).
In 2014/15 the total number increased again by a further 33% (from 21,101 to 28,000).
CAS consumer spokeswoman Sarah Beattie-Smith said the report clearly showed Scots are struggling to pay their energy bills as well as the increase on the charity's workload.
“Our case evidence highlights the key issues that have affected peoples’ ability to heat their homes over this period," she said.
"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.
The changes made to some billing systems have also been a key problem, and Scottish Power in particular has created a number of problems for consumers said Beattie-Smith.
“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.
“As these reports show, Scottish CAB advisers deal with cases like this every week.”