Dumfries and Galloway has been selected as one of just nine areas in Scotland to test a new project that helps people in fuel poverty.
The Energy Best Deal Plus scheme aims to link vulnerable consumers with practical measures that will reduce their gas and electricity bills. The service is delivered by the Citizens Advice Bureau, and is backed by the Scottish government and the major energy companies.
The choice of Dumfries and Galloway as one of the pilot areas is a recognition that fuel poverty is a particularly serious problem for many families here.
Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service chief executive Sue Irving said: “The cost of fuel has risen massively over the past few years. At the CAB we have seen more and more families who just can’t afford to heat their homes. We’ve always done everything we can to help such people, but from today we can do even more.
“From this week, if you come to see us we will speak directly on your behalf with your fuel company to make sure you can take advantage of all the help available. It’s as simple as us placing the calls for you and seeing how much money you can save. There are actually quite a few good schemes in existence already, which are aimed at helping those on low incomes. But the trouble is that people don’t know about them or don’t have the confidence to access them, so don’t apply. This project gives us the power to get straight through on the phone to the right people at all the big energy companies so we can give you direct and practical support to help save you money.
“As with all CAB services, this advice is free, confidential and impartial. When we contact your energy company, we will only talk to the department which can help you to reduce your bills and make your home more energy efficient.”
The Energy Best Deal Plus scheme is the latest action to emerge from the Scottish Fuel Bills Summit that was held last October. With one-third of Scots living in fuel poverty and with fuel bills rocketing by 14% in the space of a year, the Scottish government called an emergency meeting with the big six energy companies and a number of consumer groups (including Citizens Advice Scotland) to find ways of helping those most in need. It emerged that many schemes and benefits already exist, but consumers don’t know about them and so don’t access them. The CAB service has taken on the role of linking people with these schemes, and that’s what this project is about.
Ms Irving added: “The scheme is being tested in just nine areas to begin with. The hope is that it can eventually be rolled out across the whole of Scotland, but for now resources are being concentrated in these specially chosen areas. The fact that Dumfries and Galloway has been selected as one of these priority areas is very significant. It is a sign of how big an issue fuel poverty is for people here.”