Crisis support for households in fuel poverty was the lead topic in the Scottish Parliament as Christina McKelvie MSP and Citizens Advice Scotland met for a round-table summit of the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers on Tuesday 20 November.
Following Christina McKelvie’s campaign to all ‘Big Six’ energy companies to do more for consumers in crisis, and continuous dialogue and meetings with suppliers, the SNP MSP partnered with Citizen Advice Scotland to host the parliamentary summit.
The summit brought delegates from N-Power, Scottish Power, Scottish Gas, E-ON, EDF and SSE to discuss their credit based energy approaches and how this can be linked with holistic support, such as advice services for customers in need.
The summit followed on from Scottish Power’s successful ‘Quick Credit Voucher’ pilot programme at the Hamilton and District Foodbank within Ms McKelvie’s constituency, aiding over 120 families with their heating, hot water and energy needs.
South Lanarkshire SNP Councillor for Clydesdale NortlJulia Marrs, has been working alongside Christina McKelvie MSP to get the scheme established, initially with Scottish Power and the support of the Clydesdale and Hamilton District foodbanks, in December 2017. The foodbanks administer the scheme.
Julia Marrs said: "I could not be more delighted and grateful to Scottish Power. They believed in the scheme, had the confidence to pilot it and now have extended it, reaching hundreds of vulnerable people directly at their point of need. The impact of this scheme cannot be underestimated as welfare changes continue to bite hard on our most vulnerable. The offer of a warm home in a crisis is not only life changing but potentially life saving.”
The Quick Credit Voucher scheme offers up to three instant electronic vouchers of non-repayable credit in any 12 month period to Scottish Power customers in fuel crisis.
Commenting after the summit, Christina McKelvie MSP said: “Following many months of positive dialogue and meetings with most of the ‘Big Six’ suppliers, I am delighted to have hosted this very successful Energy Credit Summit in the Scottish Parliament, bringing together energy solutions for my constituents in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.
“This entire campaign comes from the selfless, tireless work of the volunteers at the Hamilton District Foodbank. Thanks to their activism, and the work of South Lanarkshire SNP Councillor Julia Marrs, Scottish Power introduced their energy credit scheme to our constituents, helping hundreds of families throughout Hamilton alone.”
It was great to bring all the suppliers around the table, and to join them in discussing what more can be done to help people experiencing energy and fuel poverty.
“Along with Citizens Advice Scotland, the summit worked hard to build on gains so far and to examine the best ways to carry on developing how we respond to this need so as to provide real, tangible help for my constituents, ensuring everyone is safe and secure.”
Said Craig Salter, Policy Officer at CAS: ““The meeting was a success, and it was a really positive step to get everyone in the room and begin a dialogue on this. It was clear that there was a real commitment among the participants to work together to improve access to emergency credit schemes and link them to holistic support, and we heard a lot of innovative ideas of how to take this forward.
“There was a clear ambition to find ways for existing schemes to operate in a more coordinated way, and to extend their reach. We’re grateful to Christina McKelvie for initiating and facilitating this, and it is welcome to see MSPs taking action to make a positive difference for these households. We look forward to continuing this work and taking forward the next steps to help to ensure households get the support they need.”
Colin McNeil, Retail Director at Scottish Power, said: “Since our initial trial of the Quick Credit Voucher in Hamilton and Clydesdale we have partnered with several agencies, including food banks and Citizens Advice Scotland. Our partnership with Citizen Advice Scotland now takes us to 40 locations who offer the Quick Credit Voucher, with plans to increase this further. We offer a wide range of support to vulnerable customers and it is our hope that these initiatives will provide some extra help for those who need it most.”