Banbury area advice specialists urge householders to get in touch if they are struggling with rising energy bills

Banbury area advice centres are urging householders in the district to get in touch if they have problems meeting soaring energy bills.

Monday, 10th January 2022, 5:49 pm
Updated Monday, 10th January 2022, 5:50 pm
Andy Willis, founder of Banburyshire Advice Centre, which is urging people to make contact if they are having problems meeting household bills because of energy price increases

Banburyshire Advice Centre and Citizens Advice have urged residents who are finding it hard to make ends meet to make contact to find out whether they qualify for help.

The plea comes as energy bills rise and the cap on energy prices is expected to be increased by as much as 50 per cent from April.

Founder of Banburyshire Advice Centre, Andy Willis, said he and his volunteers are there to help and support people who face having to make choices on whether to heat their home or put food on the table.

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He said he has helped scores of cases in the last year but expects to see many more with the cap on energy prices being increased last October and again in April.

"I dealt with 56 cases in the last year where people were having problems with their utility bills. My advice is that people should contact their local advice centre for help. We can point them in the right direction and help them to avoid scams," he said.

In an interview with the BBC last week, Pat Coomber-Wood, CEO of Citizens Advice North Oxon and South Northants, said her organisation was seeing many people who were finding it difficult to put food on the table.

"This is the challenge, heating or eating and the two go hand in hand. There are various forms of help available, but it all depends on whether you meet the eligibility criteria," she said.

Ms Coomber-Wood said it was important for people to be given help to discover whether they are getting the discounts, payments and prioritisation available to those who fall into a number of categories including the elderly, those on benefits, the disabled, pregnant or who have young children.

She said it was important for individuals to avoid getting into debt and that they should use food banks or community larders for food, rather than spending heating money on provisions.

"If you find that you're struggling to negotiate with the energy companies, that's when it's worth contacting Citizens Advice and getting someone to support you through the process because we can approach them and negotiate on your behalf."

Ms Coomber-Wood acknowledged how difficult it is for people who are finding it difficult to make ends meet already. "There is a significant number of people who have no luxuries whatsoever and really are just getting deeper and deeper in debt. And that's what we want to avoid," she said.

"Because it's so complex, the best thing to do is pick up the phone and call us on our advice line. It's a free number so it doesn't matter if you call from a landline or a mobile. Alternatively visit https://www.canosn.org.uk/. It's easier to speak to an advisor because it's so complex and they're the experts. They're the people who can look at your situation and ask the right questions, so that you don't go down a sort of a dead end trying to access something that you're not eligible for."

To make an appointment to speak to an advisor from Banburyshire Advice Centre call 01295 279988 and to speak to Citizens Advice call 0300 338 9037