Scotland’s Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil MSP will today (Tuesday) launch a major new project which will see local citizens advice bureaux offer special help to Scots who can’t afford their gas and electricity bills.
The Energy Best Deal Plus scheme will be launched at Airdrie CAB – one of the 9 bureaux where it will initially be available. (The others are Dumfries and Galloway, Denny & Dunipace, Motherwell & Wishaw, North Ayrshire, Nairn, Roxburgh & Berwickshire, Stirling and Rutherglen/Cambuslang).
Under the new scheme, people who are struggling with their fuel bills will be able to come to these CABs, where staff will call their energy suppliers directly on their behalf to guarantee them access to all the benefits, savings and support which they are entitled to.
The initiative is the latest action to emerge from the Scottish Fuel Summit last October, where the Scottish government met with consumer groups and industry reps to hammer out solutions to help the one third of Scots who are in fuel poverty.
Margaret Lynch, the newly-appointed Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, welcomed the pilot. Speaking in advance of the launch today, she said:
“This service is all about helping those who are most in need, and linking them directly with real practical support that will cut their fuel bills. Starting in these 9 bureaux, we hope we will soon be able to roll it out to other bureaux across Scotland – and maybe even south of the border as well.
“Scottish CAB advisers see people every day who can’t afford to pay their gas and electricity bills. There are already some good schemes in place to help such people, but we’ve found that people often don’t know about them, or they don’t have the confidence to access them. Under this initiative, CAB advisers now have a direct line to the ‘big six’ and - with their help - we will be able to make it even easier for our clients to save money and live in the well-insulated and warm homes we are all entitled to.
“We’ve been happy to work with the government and with the fuel industry to set up this scheme. But as with all CAB services, our help is free, and completely impartial. We can guarantee that our advisers will only speak to the part of the energy company which deals with discounts and insulation. Your bills and payments will not be under scrutiny. We can of course help anyone with unpaid bills manage their debts in an advice session.”
Alex Neil MSP, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, said:
“The Scottish Government has been working closely with Citizens Advice Scotland, Consumer Focus Scotland, Shelter Scotland and the Big Six energy companies to develop this initiative which will provide assistance to some of the country’s most vulnerable groups to help them cut their fuel bills.
“The Scottish Government funding for Fuel Poverty and energy efficiency programmes tops £65 million over 2012-13, at a time of substantial cuts to Scottish Government funding by the UK Coalition government.
“Over the coming year the Scottish Government will continue to work in partnership with all organisations involved with Energy Best Deal Plus to develop this pilot further with the aim of rolling it out across Scotland.”
Kevin Roxburgh, Managing Director of Scottish Gas said:
“Scottish Gas is committed to providing the best help to all our customers. We are delighted to be part of this project with CABs and the Scottish Government. We hope the project will get the message out to as many people as possible that help is on offer, and although energy costs may be rising, bills don’t have to.”
Trisha McAuley, Deputy Director at Consumer Focus Scotland said:
“Many people on low-incomes are missing out on vital help such as lower energy tariffs and free insulation. This summer’s dismal weather underlines the really big need to turn this around and ensure more people get help and support to cut their fuel bills and save money.
“We have championed the idea of local organisations coming together with energy companies to identify and help those in need. Citizens advice bureaux have strong links in Scotland’s communities and we hope this initiative does just that.”
The formal launch of the Energy Best Deal Plus scheme will take place at Airdrie CAB, 14 Anderson Street, Airdrie, ML6 0AA, on Tuesday 17 July, from 9am to 9.30am. Alex Neil, Margaret Lynch and others will make brief speeches and will be available for photographs and interviews.
For more details contact Lyndsay Russell on Lyndsay.firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 0131 550 1053, or Tony Hutson on 07774 751655.
- Energy Best Deal+ is supported by Citizens Advice Scotland, Shelter Scotland, Consumer Focus Scotland, Energy UK, Ofgem, Eon, EDF Energy, Scottish Power, npower, SSE, Scottish Gas and the Scottish Government.
- The scheme has emerged from the Scottish Fuel summit last year, when all of these agencies met against the background of a 14% rise in fuel bills. The summit recognised that many of the people who most need support are the last people to access the schemes that are available.
- The pilot will be delivered from 9 CABs across Scotland. Visit www.cas.org.uk to learn more about the help available in your area. It is hoped that the scheme will be rolled out to other CABs and advice agencies in the future.
- Shelter Scotland too will have a role in the scheme, and will refer their own clients directly to the energy suppliers and the Energy Savings Trust for advice.
- Every day Citizens Advice bureaux across Scotland help people who are struggling to pay their fuel bills. In 2010/11 the service helped clients with over 10,500, energy issues. Current economic circumstances mean many people are finding it hard to meet rising fuel costs.
- Hundreds of calls over the next 2 months will result in a potential discount on bills of over £130,000 for Scots; with additional tens of thousands of pounds to be saved through free insulation or other free energy efficiency measures.
- In January this year Citizens Advice figures revealed 35% of people in Scotland worry they can’t afford their next fuel bill and one in two say energy bills will put a strain on their finances in 2012.
- Earlier this year the Home Heat Helpline revealed that nearly 280,000 households in Scotland are entitled to some form of assistance with their fuel bills but many people don’t know what help is available. That help is worth an average of £250 for each household.