MANY Borderers who are struggling to pay utility bills could suffer more under benefit reforms and following the long winter.
That is the view of Kathryn Peden, manager of the Central Borders Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
She told The Southern: “Already we help hundreds of people across the Borders who struggle to meet the ever increasing costs of energy, but we’re concerned that rising prices, the long cold winter and changes to benefits could make it even harder for local people to heat their homes.
“Energy prices have doubled since 2004 and benefits cuts and changes are set to take £1.6billion a year out of the Scottish economy – much of it coming from the pockets of the poorest – so it’s no wonder people are struggling with energy bills.”
She added: “Anyone who’s worried about debt or about how to make ends meet can get free, confidential, impartial advice from the CAB.”
Her comments come on the back of research by Debt Advisory Centre Scotland, which revealed that 170,000 Scots are in arrears to one or more utility firms.
Ian Williams from Debt Advisory Centre Scotland said those in arrears needed to ensure they paid for their usage first and foremost.
“You then need to look at your budget and figure out how much you can pay on top of your usage towards your arrears,” he said. “Offer this to your utility provider. Even if they don’t accept this amount, pay it anyway as it will show them that you’re willing to try and work things out.”