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North East residents struggling with energy bills urged to call for help

ByDave Stopher

Jan 20, 2017
  • Christians Against Poverty says in its 20 years’ experience, it has never found a debt situation without a solution.
  • New research by British Gas reveals that more than a quarter of people in the North East don’t know how to access help.
  • More than a third in the North East say they wouldn’t speak to anyone if they were in financial difficulty.

North East residents experiencing financial difficulties with their energy bills are being urged by debt charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) to ‘brave it’ and ask for expert debt help.

The charity says spiralling personal debt can negatively affect all areas of a person’s life causing loss of sleep, putting a strain on relationships, causing poor physical and mental health and even risking their home and livelihood.

Now CAP is urging people in the North East to call for help sooner rather than allow a debt problem to develop and escalate, when it might have been swiftly sorted out.

CAP works in partnership with energy suppliers like British Gas to resolve debt problems. Research out today from British Gas has revealed thatmany people in the North East simply don’t know that help is available.

A third (33 per cent) of people in the North East said they would turn to friends and family members and almost a third of people (31 per cent) said they would contact their energy company to get help with energy debt. More than a third (35 per cent) of those surveyed said they wouldn’t speak to anyone if they began to struggle with their energy bills.

Just under half (47 per cent) of people in the North East said they would contact their energy company after 1-3 months if they were in financial difficulty. But 29 per cent of those surveyed said they didn’t know how to find out about help.

Christians Against Poverty says six in ten debt clients across the UK delayed seeking help for more than a year. A third lived with spiralling debt for more than three years, and the charity’s research shows they didn’t think anyone could sort out their problems — they felt embarrassed and afraid.

The charity visits every person in their home to offer face-to-face support while negotiating with the client’s creditors on their behalf – a unique service offered to people regardless of age, gender, faith or background.

Matt Barlow, Chief Executive of Christians Against Poverty, said:

“We appreciate working with companies like British Gas who recognise that customers with debts are often under a huge amount of stress and that their financial troubles are the tip of the iceberg.”

Karen Walker, Director of Credit and Collections at British Gas, said: 

“We have dedicated teams at British Gas who help customers every day to help deal with their energy debts. We’re very proud of our relationship with Christians Against Poverty, and other charities, and the clear evidence that our working together really helps people.

“At British Gas, help is at hand – if people are concerned about their energy bills, we offer a wide range of support and help, via our Freephone number 0800 048 0202.”

In addition to its partnerships with Christians Against Poverty and StepChange, British Gas offers direct help to customers who are having difficulty paying their bills, with interest-free debt repayment plans. In 2016, some 105,000 people were offered assistance in this way.

The supplier also makes referrals to the independent charity the British Gas Energy Trust (BGET), which has invested £85m since its foundation in 2004, helping 175,000 households with debt problems through grants and expert advice. In some cases, BGET clears an energy customer’s arrears completely.

British Gas advisers working in the specialist debt team at its Hattersley call centre near Manchester also check customers’ eligibility for grants such as the Warm Home Discount, and offer access to energy-saving measures.

British Gas has registered 1.5m of its customers on the Priority Services Register, which offers additional help for disabled or chronically ill customers and those of pensionable age.