Page last updated at 12:08 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Energy helpline for the elderly

Prices charged by all the major suppliers have risen in 2008

Energy suppliers are urging the elderly and poorer families in the UK who are struggling to pay fuel bills to turn to a free helpline designed to help them.

The Home Heat Helpline, run by the Energy Retail Association (ERA), offers advice and financial support for energy efficiency measures in the home.

A campaign to promote the helpline was launched on Tuesday.

The helpline - 0800 33 66 99 - is open from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.

Fuel poverty

Energy suppliers have been criticised for failing to cut prices in recent weeks, after raising them twice in 2008.

Official figures show that the number of households in fuel poverty in the UK rose to 3.5 million in 2006, and prices have risen again since then. Fuel poverty is when a household spends more than 10% of its income on electricity and gas bills.

Para-Olympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and veteran British actor, Richard Wilson are backing the campaign to encourage the elderly, single parents and disabled people to seek help with bills.

The helpline has assisted more than 80,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales since it began in 2005, the ERA said.

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