New scheme launched to help Scots with energy bills

UK poverty relief charity Turn2us is working with energy company SSE to help low income and vulnerable households in Scotland lower their bills by accessing energy efficiency measures through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

The charity, which last year saw 3 million people using its service, helps people in financial need access welfare benefits, grants and other financial help.

The initiative follows a report from Citizens Advice Scotland which revealed that complaints about fuel bills at Scottish Citizen Advice Bureaus has risen by 80 per cent.

Through this new partnership with SSE, people living in Scotland can use the free Turn2us’ Benefits Calculator to see what support they may be eligible to receive. This includes free or partially funded replacement heating systems and loft and cavity wall insulation to make their home more energy efficient and help reduce their energy bills. The free, easy-to-use calculator will also help people find out what additional help they may be entitled to in the form of welfare benefits.

The new scheme comes at a time when the cost of living is continuing to climb. Turn2us research has found that eight out of ten households across Scotland are worried about paying their energy bills.

The scheme is open to home owners and tenants living across Scotland that are in receipt of an eligible benefit. With a huge 78 per cent of people on low incomes across the country not checking their entitlement to welfare benefits, households are risking their health despite help being available

Alison Taylor, director of Turn2us, said: “With over a million people a year checking their benefit entitlement using our benefit calculator we are delighted to be working with SSE to offer additional support to help people manage their energy costs. With the climbing cost of living and rising energy bills a worry for many people, it’s clear that this free and easy to use service has never been more relevant and needed.”

Richard Chandler, head of energy services at SSE, added: “SSE is acutely aware of the pressure of rising energy bills on households and is working hard to keep energy bills as low as possible for as long as possible. We have demonstrated this recently by our promise to freeze prices until January 2016.

“However, making homes more energy efficient is a key way of reducing energy bills and we’ve already helped thousands of households through insulation measures and new boilers funded via the government’s Energy Company Obligation.

“I’m confident this new partnership with Turn2us will help even more vulnerable and low income households access this important support.”

A new report from Citizens Advice Scotland revealed that last year the Scottish CAB service recorded a 79 per cent increase in the numbers of cases related to household fuel bills.

In that period Scotland’s 61 local CABs – together with the service’s new consumer helpline - saw a total of 282,220 consumer issues. This is just part of the total number of 890,000 issues seen by the Scottish CAB service as a whole, but shows how much of the work of the service is now devoted to consumer advice.

Publishing the Consumer Snapshot report, Citizens Advice Scotland’s head of policy Susan McPhee said: “The CAB service has always helped people with consumer problems. Within our general workload of issues like benefits, housing, employment etc., there have always been people who need advice on a utility bill or a scam or faulty goods. But the sheer number of consumer problems we see has increased significantly over the last two years as the whole structure of consumer bodies in the country has been made more streamlined, with the CAB becoming one of the main agencies people can come to with their consumer problems.

“This report reflects that. It’s an important document, as it’s the first time we have been able to compile a national snapshot of what sort of consumer problems Scots are having to cope with, day by day. Every case is of course treated confidentially, but by collating them together we can identify particular trends and areas of concern, and these can be used by government and consumer regulators to frame public policy on these issues.

“This increased profile has of course brought more and more people to come to the CAB with their consumer problems – and we welcome that. People know we are now one of the leading agencies where they can get help on any kind of consumer issue. Either at a local CAB or from our specialist consumer helpline: 03454 040506. As with all CAB services, our consumer advice is free, independent and completely confidential.”

Households can find out if they could be entitled to a free or subsided boiler and loft and cavity wall insulation by visiting and completing the quick and easy-to-use Benefits Calculator. There is also a free helpline – 0808 802 2000 – for those without internet access. The scheme is open to home owners and tenants living across Scotland who are in receipt of an eligible benefit.

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