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One in Two Say Energy Bills Will Put a Strain on Their Finances This Year

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I'm sure it won't come as any surprise to you when I say that up and down the country people are struggling with the large fuel bills that have been dropping on their doormat for a while now.

In a recent survey of ours 43% of people told us they are worried they can't afford their next fuel bill and one in two said their energy bills will put a strain on their finances this year.

Evidence from our bureaux paints a similar picture: a bureau in the North West of England is helping a man whose benefits have been cut in half and he is now finding that 45% of his income is spent on his energy bills. He is in debt to his fuel company, never has the heating on and only uses gas to heat the hot water. His local bureaux is working with him to help him sort out his fuel debt.

It might seem strange to be talking about high fuel bills when only last week some of the big energy companies cut their prices - a move welcomed by Citizens Advice. Although we do think that suppliers could go further and are hoping that the others companies will drop their prices too.

In the meantime people are trying to find ways to slice the size of their fuel bill - in November last year, eight times as many people came to us for online advice about saving money on energy bills, compared to the same time the previous year.

While it's rising costs (and for some people, shrinking incomes too) that are putting the pressure on the purse strings people are finding ways to reduce their fuel bills: over half said they were using the heating less and 17% don't use some of the rooms in their home in order to keep costs down.

Consumers are clearly doing what they can to spend less on heating and powering their home - and we want to help them.

That's why this week we are running Big Energy Week - a campaign to help people save money on their energy bills, get advice on any fuel debts and make sure people are getting all of the help available.

A new website www.bigenergyweek.org.uk is full of information on how you can reduce your bills and details of local events near you - there are over 100 up and down the country and all of our Citizens Advice Bureaux will have leaflets with advice on saving money on your bills.
During Big Energy Week our advisers will be out and about helping people save money on their bills by encouraging them to:

• Contact your supplier to check you are you are on the best tariff and payment method for you. Monthly direct debit is on average £100 cheaper per year than paying by cash or cheque.

• Visit an accredited switching website to see if you could get your energy cheaper elsewhere. You may be able to save up to £200 off your annual bill by shopping around for a different supplier, particularly if you have never changed energy firm.

• Insulate the walls and the loft of your home and you could save on average around £120 per year. All major gas and electricity suppliers are giving away free or discounted insulation to any household, not just their own customers. Ask if you're eligible so you don't miss out. That goes for heating oil customers too.

• Check you are not missing out on any benefits or tax credits that could up your income; your local Citizens Advice Bureaux can help you with this.

• Using less energy could save you money, just by doing simple things like turning off lights and switching appliances off at the wall. Turning your thermostat down 1°C alone could cut your heating bill by £60 on average.

• If you are unable to pay your bills you should contact your energy supplier immediately as they have to help you manage your bills in a way that you can afford.

• If you use heating oil or liquid petroleum gas to heat your home, shop around and compare prices from different oil suppliers. You could also save money by buying in bulk with your neighbours; check if there is an oil club you can join or start one up.

Big Energy Week is supported by Consumer Focus, Which?, Energy UK, energy companies, charities, accredited switching sites, Ofgem and the Government

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