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A guest article by Joanna Elson of the Money Advice Trust

At National Debtline, the free debt advice service run by the Money Advice Trust, we help tens of thousands of people a year deal with arrears owed to their energy company.  In fact, one in five people who contact us for advice have energy bill debts – making this one of most common problems we help people to overcome.

The trends are startling.  In the Money Advice Trust’s recent Changing Household Budgets report, we found a huge increase in the number of callers to National Debtline with energy arrears – rising from just 2,512 ten years ago to 31,115 in 2013.  We saw this fall off slightly in 2014 thanks to a milder winter, but the underlying problem of households’ vulnerability to energy related debts remains.

The problem of energy arrears is of course in part a symptom of the problem of fuel poverty, which Turn2us has done such terrific work to highlight through their recent Cut out the Cold campaign.  While recent price cuts are welcome, with more than one million families in fuel poverty in the UK, it has never been more important to raise awareness of this problem – and of the sources of advice and support available to households who are struggling.

That’s why we are delighted that to be working with Turn2us through an innovative partnership linking benefits and debt advice through the Turn2us Benefits Calculator and our My Money Steps online advice tool.  My Money Steps takes just 20 minutes to complete and helps users work out the best way to deal with their debts, giving step-by-step help and support to get back in control.

Advice and support is out there to help households who are struggling to cope with energy costs – and it’s up to all of us to make sure that anyone who is struggling knows where to turn for the free advice they need.

 

Date of publication: 8 February 2015