Millions of Brits face a “winter of despair” where they will be unable to pay their energy bills in the coldest months of the year, warned Citizens Advice.
The charity revealed that one in three people will not be able to pay for their energy bills this winter.
Its latest analysis is based on current forecasts, which suggest energy bills could climb to £3,500 per year in October and soar above £4,200 per year in January.
The charity predicted that 24 per cent would be unable to pay their bills when the cap is next updated for October, and that this would rise to 34 per cent three months later.
Its projections take account of the energy rebate and cost-of-living payments offered by the government, revealing spiralling costs are rapidly outstripping support on offer.
Of those who won’t be able to pay in October, the majority (68 per cent) have a household income of less than £30,000.
It has also calculated that 3.2m disabled people and 4.4m families with children are set to be unable to afford October’s hikes.
Meanwhile, average energy users who can’t afford autumn’s predicted rise will end up almost £100-per-month in the red.
Its analysis suggests many people will be dragged into difficulties having no previous experience of financial support.
The charity calculates 53 per cent people who’ll be in the red come October won’t receive the additional cost–of-living payments targeted to people on benefits, disabled people and low-income pensioners.
With future price rises rapidly outpacing the value of the energy rebate, it warns further action will be needed to stop more people falling into debt.
It also highlighted the plight facing prepayment energy users.
Citizens Advice revealed that customers who paid for their energy via prepayment meter are some of those struggling the most.
In July, the charity saw record numbers of people who were unable to top up their prepayment meter – the fifth time this record has been broken this year.
It has now called on the Government to provide more targeted support for vulnerable customers, and for Ofgem to to ensure people who fall into debt are protected
This includes a suspension of forced installations of prepayment meters.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that skyrocketing prices will swallow up all of the help that has been announced so far. Every day that goes by without a plan is another day without reassurance for people who desperately need it. We urgently need further support, otherwise we risk a winter of despair for millions.”