Support is on offer to those who look set to be hit with the rising cost of living from today.
As the cost of living crisis continues to hit with the rise of the energy price cap charities and campaigners have urged the public to join together and seek help in the coming months.
On Friday the hike in household energy bills came into place after regulator Ofgem announced that average costs are set to go up by £693 as the cap went up to £1,791.
Further increases are expected to be announced for later this year, with an estimated 211,000 homes across Scotland feared to be at risk of being plunged into fuel poverty from today as the cap is lifted.
The news comes as inflation across the UK is set to hit eight per cent this month in addition to the UK Government’s rise in national insurance contributions.
The Scottish and UK Governments have announced a package of measures aimed to ease the crisis, such as £150 council tax payment for those on bands A-D and in receipt of Council Tax Reduction, and a £200 ‘rebate’ in October which will be paid back by consumers over the next five years.
Despite this, polling for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) by YouGov found that more than 8 in 10 people in Scotland are worried about the impact of rising bills.
Previous research for the charity revealed 1 in 3 people already found bills unaffordable, with almost half a million cutting back on food shopping to deal with bills, as the charity encouraged people to seek advice.
CAS energy spokesperson, Michael O’Brien, said: “Today energy bills will soar for millions as the price cap increases by around £693. It’s important to understand that lots of people were already struggling before this latest increase in bills, with one in three of us finding energy bills unaffordable.
“That’s led to some difficult spending choices for households, with almost 500,000 cutting back on food to deal with unaffordable energy costs.
“Our message to people today is they aren’t alone, and to seek advice. The CAB network has been helping people for 80 years, and last year advisers unlocked £147million for people.
“With the crisis in the energy market meaning switching isn’t really an option, the key thing is getting more money in your pocket through checks to see if there is any money you are entitled to but missing out on.
“For energy advice alone last year the average financial benefit was around £272 for clients, so people should really check to see if they are entitled to anything.
“This cost of living crisis is a perfect storm that threatens to sweep millions into poverty, debt and destitution. We want to see bolder action from policy makers to address it, but in the short term people should seek free, impartial and confidential advice from the Citizens Advice network.”
Advice Direct Scotland, which runs the national service advice.scot, encouraged those with concerns about the surging cost of gas and electricity bills to get in touch for support.
The charity’s energyadvice.scot service offers advice on billing and meters, complaints and disputes, grants and assistance, loss of energy supply and switching suppliers.
It also runs the free debt advice service, moneyadvice.scot, which provides information and support on a wide range of debt-related issues.
Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said: “This sharp rise will come as a devastating blow for many households across Scotland, and will only intensify the current cost-of-living crisis.
“We know many people are already struggling to afford bills, with two-thirds of those who responded to our poll saying they’ve faced the stark choice between heating and other goods or services like food.
“The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to struggle alone.
“Free, impartial and practical advice is available to everyone in Scotland through our energyadvice.scot service.
“Our expert advisers are on hand to offer support and advice to anyone with concerns, and our specialist debt advisers at moneyadvice.scot can help if you have personal financial worries, are struggling with debt, or need a way of getting back on track.”
Scotland’s largest trade union body and civic organisations are leading the charge in demonstrating against the cost of living crisis, with a rally called for Glasgow’s George Square on Saturday, April 2.
STUC general secretary, Roz Foyer, said: “Workers across Scotland are at the cutting edge of the most sustained threat to their incomes not seen for generations.
“In a cost-of-living crisis – which targets our most deprived and our most in need – we must respond with action. This crisis wasn’t made by those at the bottom. They shouldn’t be paying for the inactions of those at the top.
“Alongside the People’s Assembly, and other civic organisations throughout Scotland, we’ll be in George Square on Saturday leading the charge against this blatant attack on working people.
Rose Jackson, chairperson of the Scottish Pensioners Forum, added: “As the cost of living continues to surge to record highs, how can ordinary people be expected to put food on their tables and heat their homes with prices spiralling out of control.’
“Pensioners have no way of increasing their income which is well below the UK Government’s own poverty level - this abhorrent oversight by the UK Government to help those most in need is nothing short of shameful’.
“Pensioner poverty is real and this cost-of-living crisis means its only set to get worse. The workers of today are the pensioners of tomorrow and we must work together to fight against this continued attack on our class.”