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Education National News Neath Port Talbot South Wales

Pop-ups offer vital support for students amid cost-of-living crisis

More than a quarter (27%) of adults are struggling with their mental wellbeing because of the cost-of-living crisis, according to research released by the British Gas Energy Trust, rising to 70% of 18-24-year-olds and 52% of 25-34-year-olds.  

With more than half (55%) of people believing their mental wellbeing would improve if they were more financially stable, the British Gas Energy Trust is rolling out its next phase of the British Gas Post Office Pop-Ups between September 2023 – March 2024. These are delivered with the support of local funded projects who will provide free, confidential money and energy advice, and access to energy debt grants of up to £1,500 (£2,000 in exceptional circumstances) through the British Gas Energy Support fund and newly re-opened British Gas Energy Trust Individual and Families fund.  

The British Gas Energy Trust is an independent charity, separate to, but solely funded by British Gas, that offers support to individuals across the country in three ways: energy debt relief grants, emergency small energy grants and a network of 45 funded money and energy advice projects. For those struggling to pay their bills, British Gas Energy Trust Individual and Families Fund has just re-opened on 4th December to support British Gas and non-British Gas customers with energy debt of up to £1,500 on a credit energy account or pre-payment meter. The Trust also has the British Gas Energy Support Fund open for British Gas customers in energy debt.   

With 25% feeling that they will struggle this winter, it’s never been more important to seek support. From energy supplier negotiation to advice on energy debt resolution, the British Gas Energy Trust funded money and energy advice charities can provide a wide range of specialist fuel and debt advice services. 

The research reveals further sacrifices the country is making to navigate the cost-of-living crisis, including not buying new clothes (40%), cancelling subscriptions (27%), limiting the use of household appliances (36%), and growing produce at home (20%). Despite the hope these sacrifices would benefit household budgets, more than 1 in 10 (12%) people have incurred additional debt, caught in a Cost of Living Catch-22.  

The pressure on parents:  
For parents the Cost of Living Catch-22 is even tougher: 

·       1 in 20 (5%) had to sell their car to save money  

·       1 in 5 (21%) had to skip meals so their children have enough to eat 

·       6% of parents had to access a food bank, double the rate of people without children 

·       Almost half (46%) report the rising cost of energy bills has caused them additional stress 

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·       32% state their mental health is worse now than before the crisis.   

Since a successful pilot in May 2022, the British Gas Post Office Pop-Ups have been rolled out to more than 120 events across Great Britain. People who have attended Pop-Ups were reported to feel less stressed about their energy bills and more confident about how they were going to pay upcoming bills. 

Professor Green, musician, mental health advocate and British Gas Energy Trust ambassador said: “As a parent, your first instinct is to protect and provide, and when you’re doing everything you possibly can, and that’s still not enough, it has a profound impact on your mental health. Shame, stigma and fear can keep people from speaking up for help, but it’s the best thing you can do – for yourself, your family and your community. Stress and anxiety breed in uncertainty so I really encourage you to visit a British Gas Post Office Pop-Up or contact the British Gas Energy Trust to help you gain confidence in, and control of, your future.” 

Between September 2023 and March 2024 people can visit participating Post Offices across England, Scotland and Wales in areas with the highest need such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Leicester – cities found by the research to be struggling the most with their mental health due to the cost-of-living crisis. Money and energy advisers funded by British Gas Energy Trust will be on-site to provide an in-depth overview of the support available (i.e. grants), signpost people to local organisations for ongoing support, check for benefits entitlements and provide free energy-saving tips and advice.  

British Gas has committed £100 million since the start of the crisis with the biggest voluntary support package from an energy company. Any British Gas or Scottish Gas energy customer who is struggling to pay their energy bill and has sought money and energy advice is eligible to apply for a grant. Over 21,000 grants have been given out since 2021 with more than a third of recipients on disability benefit, around a third being single parents, and a third with children under 5 years old. 

Jessica Taplin, British Gas Energy Trust Chief Executive, said: “You are not alone. For almost 20 years, British Gas Energy Trust has been helping people across Britain avoid the detrimental impact of poverty by focusing on eliminating fuel poverty. Our support includes, energy debt grants, small emergency energy grants, and we fund 45 money and energy advice charities, that offer in person confidential support in England, Scotland and Wales to help people maximise their household budget. Debt and money stresses are debilitating, which is why we are delighted to be offering British Gas Energy Trust funded money and energy advisers in Post Offices across the country to help people access independent holistic support, so they feel more confident to manage their personal circumstances moving forward.” 

Nick Read, Post Office Chief Executive said: “Post Offices have been a lifeline to their communities during the cost-of-living crisis. It’s where people come to top up their pre-payment meter, collect energy bill support grants and manage their household bills. We’re proud to continue our long-standing partnership with British Gas to deliver these important pop-ups across Britain and reach into communities as the nation continues to face the rising cost of living.” 

To find your nearest British Gas Post Office Pop-Up, visithttps://www.britishgas.co.uk/post-office-pop-up-advice 

To find out more about The British Gas Energy Trust, visit: https://www.britishgas.co.uk/energy/british-gas-energy-trust.html  

Students can get support and advice at the British Gas Post Office Pop-Ups in Port Talbot on Monday, March 11thand Tuesday, March 12that 139 Station Road, Port Talbot, SA13 1NG, between 11am and 2pm.