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More households move to pre-payment meters

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More households using prepayment meters are struggling to pay their energy bills, according to Citizen’s Advice Devon.

The charity has confirmed an increase in the number of calls they’re receiving from prepayment meter households, regarding rising costs of energy.

The switching website, Uswitch is reported as saying that although the number of households on prepayment meters had been falling in recent years, that trend has now reversed, and more households are using them.

While prepayment meters are said to be good at helping people budget their finances, users of them often end up paying more for their gas or electricity.

Citizen’s Advice Devon say that the increasing number of calls they’re receiving is a reflection of the increase in households using prepayment meters.

And because energy providers often move households on to prepayment meters when they are struggling to pay their energy bills, it’s a reflection that more households are struggling financially.

We’re concerned. We’re continuing to provide Citizens Advice Devon with money from the Government’s Household Support Fund which enables the charity to provide financial support to households that are using prepayment meters.

Nick White, Citizen’s Advice Devon Energy Advice Project Manager, said:

“Households on prepayment meters are having to deal with the full impact of recent price increases in energy, without the benefit of smoothing lower summer use with high winter use. Any cold snap, and they face an even greater risk of running out of credit and consequent disconnection.

“Every day, we’re hearing from people who are struggling, living on emergency credit and juggling how they use their energy, just to keep the lights on. Some are simply unable to afford to put on the heating.”

Some households are able to get fuel vouchers to add credit to their gas or electricity, but Nick White says:

“The support that’s available with ‘fuel vouchers’ only provides emergency relief. Wherever possible we encourage people to seek additional advice.  Our trained experts can empower households to find the best ways to avoid wasting energy and to check they are receiving all eligible benefits and Government support.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member with responsibility for communities, said:

“Many households are facing really difficult choices right now between being able to afford to put food on the table, or to heat their homes.  Our concern is that there will be households this winter that will not afford to put the heating on, and we know that cold homes can exacerbate or bring on health complications.”

Councillor Roger Croad
Councillor Roger Croad

We announced last month that we have received an additional £5 million in Household Support Fund money, taking the total so far to around £15 million. Citizen’s Advice Devon is to continue to receive money from the fund, in order to support households that use prepayment meters. 

The funds will also be used to support families with children who are eligible for free school meals, in order to help pay for food during holiday times, and District/City Councils will continue to receive funds to help support households in greatest financial need and struggling to pay for food and energy.