Call for people in South Gloucestershire being forced onto prepayment meters to come forward
- Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire is calling for people forced onto prepayment meters to come forward and receive help
- Figures from national Citizens Advice show more than 3 million people ran out of prepay credit last year. They had no light and heat in their homes
- Help is available from Citizens Advice. The charity is campaigning for a total ban on the forced installation of prepayment meters until safeguards are put in place
A charity helping those struggling amid the cost-of-living crisis has urged people forced onto prepayment meters to come forward.
Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire wants to get in touch with anyone who now has a prepaid tariff. The call comes in light of a national campaign to highlight the problem.
National prepayment meters problem
Data from the national Citizens Advice shows more than 3 million people had cold and dark homes at some point last year. This was due to running out of prepay credit.
The national charity estimates suppliers forced 600,000 people onto prepayment meters due to debt in 2022. This compares to just 380,000 in 2021.
Citizens Advice has also predicted an additional 160,000 people will have prepayment meters by the end of winter.
The stark findings by Citizens Advice show at least once a week, a household with someone who is disabled or has a long-term condition has been cut off – in breach of regulations.
Case studies highlighted by the charity include someone who was cut off despite needing electricity for a breathing machine due to a lung condition.
Citizens Advice is calling for a total ban on the forced installation of new prepayment meters. This should remain in place until additional safeguards are implemented to stop people being cut off.
Business secretary Grant Shapps MP has written to suppliers to urge them to stop forcing households struggling with bills onto prepayment meters.
And Ofcome could subject energy companies to legal action if an investigation shows they are not taking care of vulnerable households.
What the charity wants to do locally
Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire wants to get in touch with anyone in the area who has had a similar experience. The charity wants to offer advice and support.
Emmanuelle Claverie is Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire’s Lead Supervisor and manages a team of advisers. She is concerned there may be more people in the community who are having this problem.
She wants to let people know they can refuse to be moved to prepayment if they wouldn’t be able to top it up. Alternatively, they can refuse due to an illness or disability.
She said: “There are steps your supplier must take before switching you onto a pre-payment meter. We have an energy team who can support clients who have difficulties keeping up their energy payments or are struggling to keep their pre-payment meter topped up.
“One of our clients came to see us because she was struggling to top up her pre-payment meter due to her health conditions – the shop being too far – and having difficulties topping up online.
“We contacted her supplier on her behalf, explained her situation and got the meters changed to credit meters. A lot of our clients don’t think there is anything they can do against prepayment meters, but this is not the case.”
About the charity’s work
Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire is a local, independent charity under the umbrella of the national Citizens Advice. It offers free, confidential, impartial advice to anyone struggling.
Advisers at the charity are currently seeing much higher demand for help in some areas compared to pre-Covid. This comes as energy bills and weekly food shopping costs are shooting up.
The charity has seen a tenfold increase in the number of people it is referring to foodbanks compared to 2019. This is up from around six a month to 60 per month.
Some groups have a greater need for foodbanks than others. The charity consistently refers single-parents, disabled people and social tenants more than other cohorts.
Meanwhile, the charity has helped more than five times as many local people with energy problems and energy debts since 2019. This is up from around 8 per month to 44 a month in Dec 2022. The charity expects this to increase further as we move through the winter months.
Advisers at the charity offer support in a number of areas including debt, energy, housing and much more.
The charity is dependent on money from donations and grants to keep serving the people of South Gloucestershire.
- Anyone in South Gloucestershire seeking free, independent, impartial and confidential advice from Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire can call 0808 278 7927 or visit: www.southgloscab.org.uk
- Anyone wishing to donate to Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire to help it continue its vital work should click here