SUPPORT services in North Ayrshire have urged people worried about rising fuel bills not to suffer in silence - as the impacts of the current cost of living crisis continue to be felt among the area’s poorest communities.

Gas and electricity payments for a typical household are set to increase by 54 per cent in April - meaning families will have to fork out almost £700 extra each year.

Despite government support being offered, including a £150 council tax rebate, many campaigners say the help does not go far enough.

Craig Crosthwaite of North Ayrshire Foodbank, which operates at Towerlands Community Centre and Castlepark, as well as at nine other locations, said the choice between heating and eating is not a new one.

He said: “It has been going on for decades. What we might find is the scale has the potential to escalate given the substantial increase to come along in April through the revision of energy pricing.

“We anticipated numbers would start to decline as our communities opened up again.

"That has not happened, so we have to assume that the cost of living “crisis” is keeping the figures inflated.”

North Ayrshire and Arran MP, Patricia Gibson, hit out at the “out of touch” UK Government’s “half-hearted” attempt to provide support to struggling families through a £200 rebate to be repaid over five years, which she called “little more than a gimmick”.

Mrs Gibson said she will “continue pressing for more meaningful support” for those facing financial hardship, such as introducing a low-income energy payment, a real living wage, raising the level of sick pay and an equitable energy policy.

Housing, welfare and debt advice charity CHAP stressed that early intervention can save much pain and worry – and encouraged people to get in touch for free support.

Debbie Alexander, the organisation’s CEO, said: “We like to focus on solutions but it’s hard not to be worried just now. The first thing we’d say to anyone is to seek help as early as possible.

"It is definitely easier to head off a looming problem than to address one which has reached the point where it may cost someone the roof over their head.

"If debt or housing issues are becoming a worry, our advice is to seek help as early as possible.”

Visit for more information or call 0300 002 0002 for free.