One in six will go without heating this winter

That chill in the morning air is proof that winter is most certainly coming and while Britain probably won’t be pelted with snow for 120 days, like one daily newspaper has claimed, it’s bound to be pretty nippy.

However, more than half of Brits are worried about the cost of heating th…

That chill in the morning air is proof that winter is most certainly coming and while Britain probably won’t be pelted with snow for 120 days, like one daily newspaper has claimed, it’s bound to be pretty nippy.

However, more than half of Brits are worried about the cost of heating their home to the point that one in six Brits will go without heating this winter due to tight funds.

Of the 2,000 people surveyed by the Debt Advisory Centre in September, three in five said they’d cut back on regular bills to pay for heating.

From these people, more than a quarter said they would spend less on food to cover their heating bills, while a tenth were prepared to take out credit to keep warm. Just less than a quarter would instead juggle outgoings by not paying part or all of a regular bill.

Young people were the biggest worriers, with almost two-thirds concerned about not being able to afford heating bills.

Talk about it

A year’s worth of gas for a consumer costs £714 on average, according to the Office for National Statistics, but five per cent of British homeowners owe money to their energy supplier, according to GoCompare’s study of 1,280 UK adults.

How these people reacted varied: one in six said they ignored the debt, hoping that it would sort itself out over time, while the same proportion of people said they had been successful in agreeing a repayment plan with their energy provider.

Burying your head in the sand is absolutely the worst thing you can do and being upfront about your struggles with your energy supplier is the way to go, because they have a duty to help and should advise you about paying off your debt.

They should also offer you a repayment plan at a rate that you can afford. This usually means that they’ll let you make smaller repayments until your financial situation recovers.

“Nobody should be going without heating because they are in debt,” stated Debt Advisory Centre’s debt expert Melanie Taylor.

“Like the rent or council tax, the gas and electricity bill should be treated as priority costs and paid first. If this means that there isn’t enough money left to cover unsecured debt repayments – such as credit cards and loans – then the best advice is to let your lenders know that you are in financial difficulties.

“If you don’t feel able to do this directly, then a debt adviser can do it for you.”

Switch it up

Some homeowners may fall into debt with their energy provider because their bill is too high and if these people have owed their supplier for less than 28 days, they can switch to a cheaper one.

The outstanding debt with their previous supplier will still need to be paid and will appear on their final bill, but taking this kind of action can only help people to get a grip on monthly outgoing and avoid debts building up in other areas.

Unfortunately, any debt to energy suppliers that is older than 28 days will need to be repaid before they can switch, but energy suppliers can’t stop customers switching if the debt has resulted from a fault on their behalf.

By Amy White

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