All the help you can get as energy bill debt DOUBLES to £1billion
SIX million households now owe their energy supplier money as energy debt has doubled in the past year.
Families in energy debt now owe an average of £188 to their provider, warns Uswitch.
The number of homes in debt to their supplier has risen by half compared to a year ago, and the average amount owed is now £58 higher.
Octopus Energy has the largest proportion of customers in debt, with one in three owing money to the supplier.
A quarter of customers at Scottish Power and E.ON are in energy debt.
It comes as energy bills soared for thousands of people this month after the price cap was increased to £1,971 a year for an average household.
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Experts have predicted that the cap could rise a further £600 in October, taking the average bill to £2,571.
While 11 million households have credit balances with their supplier, the collective £1.4billion they hold is £500million lower than last year.
Justina Miltienyte, energy policy expert at Uswitch, said: "Higher prices over the winter has meant we are seeing many more people in energy debt at a time when they should be building up their credit again.
"This means that households across the country are likely to see their direct debits rise so they can begin to pay back what is owed, making it tough to prepare for future increases."
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The energy expert says it's important for families to take control of their energy use ahead of the next price hike in October.
She recommends taking regular meter readings to ensure they are accurate and leaving the credit with energy suppliers to prepare for winter months.
"If you do not have a smart meter, record your meter readings regularly and submit them to your supplier so your bills are as accurate as possible," she added.
"If you are in credit, it’s probably best to leave the money with your supplier to act as a buffer in the autumn and winter. "
For the millions of households which are struggling to keep up with their bills, it is crucial to make use of all the help available.
What support is available?
Energy suppliers may offer you a grant if you're in debt to your provider and struggling to pay your bill.
For example, British Gas has earmarked £6billion to help customers.
Other energy firms also offer hardship grants, but the amounts on offer and eligibility vary so it's best to check with your provider.
The government is also trying to help people with rising energy bills as part of wider package on tackling the cost of living crisis.
From October 2022, all domestic energy customers will get a £200 rebate on their gas and electricity bill.
However, it will need to be paid back from April 2023 with an extra £40 per year added to bills for five years.
Households can also get help with the Winter Fuel Payment, which gives people over 65 between £100 and £300 towards the cost of keeping their homes warm during the colder months.
Older people on pension credit or other benefits may be eligible for a £140 payment towards heating costs under the warm home discount scheme.
In addition, homeowners looking to switch to heat pumps can apply for a grant of up to £5,000 from this month.
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The £450million Boiler Upgrade Scheme will allow those in England and Wales to get up to £5,000 off the cost of installing a heat pump or biomass boiler.
It is also worth checking with your local council for household support grants that are aimed a people on low incomes or contact charities such as StepChange, Citizens Advice and Turn2Us.
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