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Advice for Norfolk residents struggling with energy bills


06:45 21 January 2022

Energy bills are rising and many people in the area are worried about the impact this will have on their finances.

But for those struggling to pay higher gas and electricity bills, help is available.

Charities and local organizations including Norfolk Community Advice Network, Age UK Norwich and Age UK Norfolk, Norfolk Citizens Advice, Norfolk Community Law Service and MAP all provide help and support to people in East Anglia who are struggling to pay their energy bills.

“We’ve definitely noticed an increase in inquiries from people struggling with energy bills,” said Emily Balsdon, from the Norfolk Community Advice Network.

Emily Balsdon of the Norfolk Community Council Network
– Credit: Norfolk Community Advice Network

“Also, people have struggled if they’ve looked to save money by switching providers, because at the moment it can cost more.”

Norfolk Community Advice Network has a chat function on its website that it can use to help people facing financial difficulties.

Ms Balsdon added: “We advise people who are struggling to pay their energy bills to ensure they receive all the income to which they are entitled.

“There are a lot of benefits that go unclaimed because people don’t realize they’re available to them.

“People can also dispute whether they’ve lost their benefits or had their benefits changed.

“We won 86% of the time people challenged a benefit decision.”

Many people in financial difficulty have taken on additional debt, with some turning to payday loans.

Ms Balsdon said: “We know people are taking payday loans, but we want people to understand that they don’t have to.

“Also, there are plenty of free debt advice charities out there, so people should never pay for debt advice.”

The charity Norfolk Community Law Service provides a free legal advice service to people in Norfolk.

Citizens Advice Norfolk runs a Norfolk Warm and Wise program designed to specifically help locals who are struggling to pay their energy bills or have problems with their supplier.

Age UK Norwich and Age UK Norfolk help people aged over 50, while MAP has been set up to help young people aged 25 or under.

Jo Willingham Age United Kingdom Norwich

Jo Willingham, Information and Advice Manager, at Age UK Norwich
– Credit: Age UK Norwich

Jo Willingham, advice, information and wellbeing manager at Age UK Norwich, said: “We work with people aged 50 and over and we have an information and advice team who can therefore to help.

“It’s amazing how much people are entitled to without often realizing it and we can help people maximize their income.

“A lot of what we do is look at potential help for people.

“Even if they think they are not entitled to anything, things change and is it still worth getting in touch and quickly checking what you are entitled to.

“For example, are you eligible for a disability benefit? »

Ms Willingham revealed that one type of financial benefit available is attendance allowance, which is not means-tested.

older man smiling in the snow

Age UK can help people over 50 who are struggling to pay their energy bills.
– Credit: Age UK Norwich

Attendance allowance is available for those who have a health condition that affects their daily life, for example, they need help cooking due to a health condition.

Under the allowance, people can claim either a lower rate or a higher rate.

The lowest rate offers £60 per week and is available for those who need help during the day or night.

The highest rate offers £89.60 and is available for those who need help around the clock.

Ms Willingham added: “A big part of what we do is to help people maximize their income and minimize their costs.

“It’s never too late to get help, but the sooner the better.”

In addition to looking for ways to increase their income, those worried about rising energy bills should look for ways to reduce the amount of gas and electricity they use.

Simple steps such as closing curtains and doors to keep heat in a room can help reduce the amount of energy used.

Homeowners may also be looking for ways to better insulate their homes and they should check if they are eligible for grants to help defray the costs.