Citizen's Advice Shropshire: Don't be scared to seek help with energy bills
Government action is needed to prevent a "desperate winter" for people struggling with rising energy costs, according to a support group.
Citizens Advice Shropshire has urged people worried about paying bills to seek help early, adding that help is available at any stage.
Aleksandra Zydek, research and campaign officer for Citizens Advice Shropshire, said they were concerned at the impact of the latest energy price increase – which comes as the organisation has already seen a big rise in the number of people needing help.
She said: "We have very definitely seen an increase in people coming to us for crisis support and with energy problems needing support – and that was before the energy cap was raised.
"Our national data says one in four won't be able to pay energy bills by October."
Ms Zydek said that support is available, but only government action will prevent the full impact of the situation.
She said: "We want to reassure people there is help available at any stage and we want to encourage people to come forward, but at the same time we are that worried without further government support and action from the regulator Ofgem, this will be a very desperate winter for many people.
"I have read some of the evidence reports and one stands out, a single parent on Universal Credit who is struggling to top up her pre-paid meter.
"Pre payment customers, if they cannot pay they therefore don't have electricity, they are just cut off.
"This particular parent was very worried, they are relying on a food bank to save money to pay for electricity.
"This is someone in a house with two small children without energy or gas.
"It is very shocking to hear those stories and unfortunately there are more and more coming our way."
She added: "Companies need to be careful chasing the debts as well because a lot of very vulnerable people are in a bad situation already.
"We are seeing people who have never been in this situation before unable to afford their living costs.
"This winter for some it won't be a choice between eating and heating, some people won't be able to afford either of those things."
Ms Zydek said that the financial pressure would also have a major mental health impact and asked those in trouble to look for support as soon as possible.
She said: "It is absolutely right to say we are not only seeing a crisis in terms of being able to afford food or energy but we will see mental health crisis for those people as well.
"There is support available and the earlier people come for support the better. There are more options available but there is support available at any stage.
"Don't feel it is weak or not right to come for support. It is absolutely the right thing to do and there are plenty of organisations in Shropshire that can help."
Help is avalable from the following sources
Shropshire Council Cost of Living webpage: https://shropshire.gov.uk/cost-of-living-help/
Citizens Advice Shropshire FREE Shropshire Adviceline: 0808 278 7894 (Mon-Fri 10am to 4pm)
Text phone: 18001 0800 144 8884
Specialist Shropshire debt team: 01743 280019