Citizens Advice fears rise in people ‘self-disconnecting’ from energy meters

A charity fears the “already worrying” number of people self-disconnecting from pre-payment energy meters could spike amid increasing cost-of-living pressures. Andy Brown, of Citizens Advice, said people must not spend the winter “too scared, too frightened to turn the heating on”.

The charity is predicting that in January – a month where finances are typically tight for many – some pre-payment customers will need to find an estimated £360 a month for their energy or risk being cut off. He said: “We are concerned that the consequences of enforcement action and, in particular, the imposing of a pre-payment meter to collect energy bill arrears, will lead to a spike in the already worrying rise in the number of people self-disconnecting.

“When people on pre-payment meters can’t afford to top up, this doesn’t mean they simply slip into debt. For many, they often self-disconnect, impacting on their health, their wellbeing and potentially leading to disrepair for their homes.”

Mr Brown, chief executive of the Manchester branch, gave the example of a woman who incurred significant transport costs when she travelled to London to look after an unwell family member. On her return, she had nothing with which to top up the pre-payment meter. The freezer was turned off as a result and she lost most of her food.

Citizens Advice helped her with a voucher and a food bank referral. The charity is calling for benefits to be raised in line with inflation, with its data suggesting that the number of people seeking its support could triple within months if this does not happen.

Mr Brown said the charity is already “breaking unwelcome records”, with the number of people requesting crisis help more than doubling between March and September, and increasing numbers in debt or with negative budgets, where their income does not meet their essential costs. The charity also wants to see targeted support for those on the lowest incomes, with clearer guidance on what help will be available after April, when the universal energy price guarantee ends.

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