PEOPLE across the country are struggling to pay their energy bills as the cost-of-living soars.

Rising energy prices are a growing factor in the squeeze on household budgets, with many people seeking support to help pay the bills.

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Energy company Utilita - created in and based at Chandler's Ford - offers an Extra Care service for customers who require more support.

This team serves around 270,000 people – one in three of the company's entire customer base.

The Daily Echo spent the morning at the company’s office to hear first-hand why people are struggling.

'We have no money' 

In under an hour, Extra Care Team Agent Peter Gilmartin speaks with three concerned customers. All have queries about gas and electricity payments.

A concerned couple on Universal Credit say they fear not having enough money to pay for electricity when it runs out – meaning they could not use their home appliances.

The man, who has cancer and diabetes, tells Peter: “We have no money until July 14.

Daily Echo: Extra Care Team Agent's at Utilita Peter Gilmartin, Sasha Dixon (front right) and fellow team member Alison Extra Care Team Agent's at Utilita Peter Gilmartin, Sasha Dixon (front right) and fellow team member Alison

“All our machines have cut off, including our fridge which has my insulin in.

“Our child is at home with us as well as her class has Covid. We can’t cook any food.

“We have got no one who can help us. We asked everyone but our electricity ran out.”

Peter talked the couple through their gas and electricity usage in the past week, suggesting ways to save money.

This included not having the gas on in the early hours of the morning.

He then offered to switch them to a monthly payment which they accepted.

'I don't think it's going to last'

The sharp rise in utility bills is not only affecting families but those who live alone too.

One woman was frightened about the prospect of not having enough money to see her through until her next benefits payment.

She told Peter: “I don’t think my £8.48 for my gas and £13 for electricity is going to last until I get my money on July 11.

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“I am feeling really ill with my epilepsy and disability so I am worried, about my fridge and TV losing electricity especially.

“I top up every two weeks and need £12 to last 14 days.”

According to Peter, the woman spends £1.31 a day on electricity and 86p a day on gas, on average.

He reassured her the money she had left would last until Monday and explained how it would do so.

The team has found it is now helping a new demographic of people - those in work with multiple jobs and with families.

'A pay cheque away from disaster' 

The Extra Care Team was created by Utilita in 2014 and for team member Sasha Dixon, she is glad the company used its initiative at that time.

She said: “It’s really important we use this technology to support people.

Daily Echo: Extra Care Team Agent's at Utilita Peter Gilmartin and Sasha Dixon Extra Care Team Agent's at Utilita Peter Gilmartin and Sasha Dixon

“Our team caters for all customers who need additional support.

"Primarily this is our cohort of priority register customers, which totals 270,000 – that’s one in three of our entire customer base.

“We were very quick as a company to provide this support and we have done it from Covid through to the cost-of-living crisis.

“Now, we are seeing how a totally different demographic of customers are struggling.

“We are helping people who are working, have two or three jobs, those with families and people who are one pay cheque away from financial disaster.”

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