Welcome to our monthly advice column from Citizens Advice Bury and Bolton. Each month, we’ll be tackling an advice query about a specific issue, sharing information and letting you know where to go for support. Remember, if you need any advice you can contact our team: freephone 0808 278 7804 or visit www.cabb.org.uk to find out more about our advice by video service or to self-refer

I am a single parent with two kids and I’m really worried about how I’ll afford to pay my energy bills when I have to start putting the heating and lights on more now winter is here. At the moment I just about have enough money to cover my bills but there is nothing left over. The thought of getting into debt keeps me awake at night but the idea of my children being cold and possibly unwell as a result is just unbearable. What can I do? 

You are not alone – a record number of people came to Citizens Advice with energy debt in the first four months of 2023 (32,400) – a 112% increase on the same period in 2020 (15,200). 

There are things you can do to feel in control when it comes to your energy bills

There are some simple tips to help save money on your energy bills. They won’t cover all the extra costs, but they can make a difference:

  •  Check your thermostat: A room temperature between 18°C and 21°C is ideal for most people. Try turning your thermostat down by one degree within this range – it could save you around £115 a year. If a medical condition means you need a warmer home, ask your GP what room temperature you should aim for. 
  • Keep the heat in: Check your home for any gaps in the doors, windows and floors. Blocking any holes where you could get a draught could save you around £30 a year. It is important to allow for some ventilation as without it mould and damp can form. 
  • Turn off anything you’re not using: Turning your appliances, like TVs and washing machines, off instead of leaving them on standby could save around £60 a year. Turning off lights when you’re not using them – even if it’s just off for a few seconds – could save around £25 a year. 
  • Consider using LED light bulbs, which cost less to run. 
  • Watch your water usage: Cutting your shower time by just one minute can make a difference. If everyone in a four-person household with a water meter did this, they could save around £75 a year.

If you’re struggling to afford your energy bills, contact us for support. There may be financial support from the government or your energy supplier – you may be eligible for benefits including the Warm Home Discount, Cold Weather Payments or the Household Support Fund. 

At Citizens Advice Bury & Bolton, we have a designated energy advice team – we’re here and ready to help. 

We know this is an extremely worrying time and everyone’s situation is different. You don’t have to struggle alone. If you need further support, contact us via Adviceline on 0808 278 7804, or visit cabb.org.uk for more ways to access advice.

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