Issues with an Energy Supplier: Mr Chauhan

Mr Chauhan has lived in a small, one bedroom property for almost two years. In January of 2021, his smart meter stopped sending readings to his supplier automatically, and without contact from the energy company, the customer was not immediately made aware of the situation.

Transcript: 

Mr Chauhan has lived in a small, one bedroom property for almost two years. In January of 2021, his smart meter stopped sending readings to his supplier automatically, and without contact from the energy company, the customer was not immediately made aware of the situation.

Mr Chauhan struggled to provide meter readings online, and eventually, after the estimated meter readings fell behind his actual usage, he was faced with a large catch-up bill, despite continuing to pay his monthly Direct Debit.

This placed him in debt with his energy supplier, and he was unable to afford his continued usage, as well as pay off the debt he had built up. He was rationing his energy usage to afford energy payments to his supplier.

It was at this point that Mr Chauhan reached out to the Dundee Energy Efficiency Advice Project (DEEAP) through Dundee City Council, who raised a complaint with the energy supplier on his behalf.

Matthew at DEEAP also made a referral on the customer’s behalf to the Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund, administered by Advice Direct Scotland through homeheatingadvice.scot.

Mr Chauhan received an award of £500, which was paid directly to his energy supplier.

Hazel Knowles, Energy Team Lead at Advice Direct Scotland, said:

“Mr Chauhan’s case highlights the sources of support available for Scottish energy customers and is an excellent example of partnership networks helping the consumer.

“In situations that seem impossible, reaching out for support is important.

“The Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund offers a vital lifeline to Scottish energy customers who are struggling with energy costs, many of whom are already self-rationing energy to get-by.

“Getting our finances under control can be difficult when we do so alone and reaching out for help is important.

“Advice Direct Scotland offer a range of services that can be of assistance.

energyadvice.scot provide free, practical advice and information on energy-related matters to the citizens of Scotland and can answer energy-related enquiries.

“Our specialist advisers are available on 0808 196 8660 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).

“You can find out more about the Home Heating Support Fund by visiting www.homeheatingadvice.scot.

moneyadvice.scot provide free information and support on a wide-range of debt-related issues.

“Our specialist debt advisers can work with you to assess your current situation, look at your income and expenditure and decide what to do next.

“You can call them on 0808 196 2316 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).”

Support Matters: Mr Sutherland

Mr Sutherland has been signed off work for a couple of years now and has not been able to keep up with things. Mr Sutherland contacted the Home Heating Support Fund team to seek out financial assistance to cover his high energy bills…

Transcript: 

Mr Sutherland was more than happy for his case to be highlighted to raise awareness of the cost-of-living crisis and the support that was made available to him.

Mr Sutherland has been signed off work for a couple of years now and has not been able to keep up with things.

He is a former oil and gas worker who worked as a senior document controller in the industry, and stated that soaring energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis meant he was having to go without food and showers just to get by.

He had therefore been relying on benefits and food banks for the past two years.

After leaving the oil and gas industry, he tried to apply for the Transition Scotland Scheme which provides £5,000 per person to help people get jobs like HGV driving.

He had also been employed for a company administering pharmaceutical document control in Holland.

However, after a few months the main project was cancelled, and he was the first one to be let go. When Mr Sutherland arrived back in Aberdeen, he was unable to re-apply for funding from Transition Scotland and took up ad-hoc work in Peterhead.

For the past two years he has been unable to work due to poor mental health and only receives £317 a month in benefits.

He expressed his worries for the future by stating that he could not afford gas and electricity and had damp patches on the walls of his house.

He also highlighted that he was only showering every other day and was doing laundry at his mum’s house because it was too expensive for him to do it at home.

He advised that his cooker is electric, and he tried not to use the microwave as much, so he rarely had any hot meals and was only eating when he was desperately hungry.

Recently, Mr Sutherland’s energy bills jumped from £75 to £140 a month – after paying child maintenance and his TV licence fee, all the rest of his money was being spent on trying to keep warm.

He attended foodbanks, using them about once a fortnight, but advised that the fuel costs incurred getting there were problematic, as well as the stigma attached.

He advised his mum dropped food off at the door for him and sometimes the neighbour would drop off some soup. He stated that he possesses mixed feelings because he is very appreciative regarding the services out there to help someone who is going through a tough time.

Mr Sutherland contacted the Home Heating Support Fund team to seek out financial assistance to cover his high energy bills…

After carefully assessing Mr Sutherland’s needs and situation, homeheatingadvice.scot were successfully able to award him a grant of £737.40 from the Home Heating Support Fund to help him cover his energy bills and debts owed.

Mr Sutherland contacted the Home Heating Support Fund team once more to express his thanks for the grant, as he believes that it will significantly address many of the challenges he faces. Mr Sutherland’s story featured in the Press and Journal online.

You can read more of Mr Sutherland’s story in an article Featured in the Press and Journal by clicking HERE.

South Seeds Referral Partner - Martina

Martina lives with her husband and two children in a social rented tenement flat in Glasgow. To resolve the situation and get her energy account and debt under control, Martina contacted South Seeds, a community organisation based in the South-Central area of Glasgow. They supplied energy advice, with the energy officer applying for funding from the Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund through homeheatingadvice.scot on Martina’s behalf…

Martina lives with her husband and two children in a social rented tenement flat in Glasgow.

She provides for her family through her part-time cleaning job, her small income supplemented by universal credit.

Unfortunately for the family, Martina’s husband has been unable to find a job due to a language barrier. This leaves the family with a very small monthly income.

Since moving into the flat, Martina has been paying by monthly direct debit to cover her gas costs and topping up a prepayment meter to pay for electricity. However, Martina had not realised that with the increased energy costs, her monthly payments were no longer enough to cover her usage.

She also was not aware that she had to submit gas meter readings to make sure her bills were accurate.

In February 2021 she received a letter stating that she owed £271 to her supplier for her gas usage.

Having had her income significantly reduced during the pandemic, Martina was unable to pay this. A few months later, she received a call from another supplier asking if she wanted to switch over her supply to them.

Thinking that this would help lower her bills, Martina accepted the offer and began the process of switching. She did not realise that this process required her to set up an online account to finalise the switch.

For this reason, she disregarded the subsequent letters from the original gas supplier while waiting for her new bill from the new one, who she now believed was her supplier. This bill did not arrive; instead, in December 2021, Martina received a letter from the original supplier, stating that she had an outstanding debt of £1177.

To resolve the situation and get her energy account and debt under control, Martina contacted South Seeds, a community organisation based in the South-Central area of Glasgow. South Seeds had helped her with her energy bills in the past. The energy officer’s first step was to call up Martina’s original supplier to stop the debt collection from being carried out and avoid an additional fee of £94.

Secondly, the energy officer helped Martina set up a repayment plan covering both her ongoing usage and paying towards her debt.

While Martina was thankfully able to afford the lowest repayment plan offered by the original supplier, the new expense required her to ration the family’s food budget. To mitigate the negative effects of this, the energy officer applied for funding from the Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund through homeheatingadvice.scot to cover the final debt of £1177.

Martina received £1700 which covered both her debt and part of her future bills. With the help of the energy officer, she set up a new payment plan that covers her ongoing usage without stretching the family’s limited budget.

With the knowledge of how to take a meter reading, her new payment plan, and the additional £523, Martina is now confident that she will be able to stay on top of her bills for the rest of the year, even with the energy price increase occurring in April 2022.