Rising energy bills could see the number of Suffolk households in fuel poverty more than double from 50,000 to 120,000, a local organisation has warned.

Yesterday, regulator Ofgem confirmed an 80.06% rise in the energy price cap for around 24 million households in England, Scotland and Wales, sending the average household’s yearly bill from £1,971 to £3,549.

The cap will come into effect on October 1.

Speaking on the announcement, Tim Holder, head of public affairs at Suffolk Community Foundation, said: "The Covid pandemic could be a rehearsal compared to the challenges that we are going to be facing as a result of this news.

"We had nearly 50,000 households across Suffolk living in fuel poverty in 2020.

"This subsequent price hike could see this figure rise to over 120,000 in the new year.

"This is 120,000 households who are spending more than 10% of their disposable income on fuel.

"We are very much in a position where people are likely going to have to choose between heating or eating."

Mr Holder's comments come as Citizens Advice Ipswich say they have seen a huge increase in the number of people coming to them for support.

Sally Harrison, professional services manager at Ipswich Citizens Advice, said: "Compared to last year, we've seen a 70% increase in the number of people coming to us in crisis.

"We've had an 89% increase in people coming to us unable to pay their energy bills."

"This price hike is going to put more pressure on people already struggling.

"Families that were just getting by will be pushed over the edge."

Ofgem said the increase reflected the continued rise in global wholesale gas prices, which began to surge as the world unlocked from the Covid pandemic, and had been driven still higher to record levels by Russia slowly switching off gas supplies to Europe.

Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) estimated that the rise would increase the number of UK households in fuel poverty from 4.5 million last October to 8.9 million this October, even taking into account the Government’s support package announced in May.

Home-Start in Suffolk, the county's largest family support charity, said they have seen a 100% increase in the number of referrals, with the figure rising from 550 last year to more than 1,100.

The organisation's family support manager, Alison Grant, said: "Many of these people have never had to use services before.

"Some are employed but are finding their wages cannot support their living costs.

"Parents will put their children first and go hungry and there is a big increase in families needing to use foodbanks and pop-up shops.

"Last year, one parent said she would have to negotiate with her landlord to pay her rent in order to ensure she had the money she needed to buy essential school uniform.

"We are not looking at non-essential expenditure such as days out and presents.

"We are looking at those basic items that every human being deserves: food, somewhere to live that is safe and has heating and water."

Mr Holder underlined the crucial role the voluntary sector is playing throughout the cost of living crisis, but also highlighted the issues many will be facing themselves.

"Charities and community groups will be affected by rising prices as well.

"They have staff to pay, they have heating bills, accommodation and transport costs.

"With 120,000 households needing support, the voluntary sector is going to have to be able to do more than they have ever done.

"I have every confidence that Suffolk will step up to support people but there is no doubt we have challenges ahead."

Despite these concerns, the voluntary sector remains dedicated to helping people through such difficult times.

"We're here for people", said Sally Harrison.

"Our doors are open in Ipswich and people can reach out to us by calling, visiting our website or email.

"The main thing to remind everyone is that they are not alone.

"There is somewhere to go so please do reach out to us."