Gas debt and disconnectionsAuthors: Karen Rowlingson, Elaine Kempson
Published by: Policy Studies Institute
Publication date: 1993
Report number: PSI Research Report 751
With the number of gas disconnections at 15,707 in 1992, this study disentangles the complex reasons why people get into debt and are then disconnected from their gas supply. Based on detailed interviews with 45 British Gas customers, the study examines the individual circumstances behind the statistics on debt and disconnection. Many were living on very low incomes, less than the basic Income Support levels in some cases. Changes in circumstance such as redundancy or divorce often added to the difficulties of living on a low income.
Long-term absence from home, difficulties with payment methods and disputes over bills or payment also explained debt in some cases. Poor money management or deliberate non-payment were not significant factors. But why are people in debt subsequently disconnected? The study found that:
- Some people felt that they had no, or very little, money to offer. The emotional stress of redundancy, divorce or long-term low income made it difficult to cope with the situation.
- Others deliberately avoided contact so that they could get a token meter or go onto fuel direct, or were simply away from home and unaware of the impending disconnection.
- Perhaps more disturbing, some people did get in touch, made an attempt to sort out their problems, and yet were still disconnected.