Spotlight on: a Citizens Advice Doncaster Borough money and energy advisor
Stuart Tovell started at Citizens Advice Doncaster Borough (CADB) as a volunteer in 2020. Realising the importance of the work taking place, he trained as a general advisor before specialising as a money and energy advisor working on the British Gas Energy Trust funded project, CADB- Energy Crisis Response.
About his experiences Stuart said:
“Much of my work involves clients who often started to get into difficulties during the covid pandemic, many became isolated, could not go out and therefore had higher gas and electric usage, many lost their jobs as well.
We can add to this the cost of living crisis, many paying out larger amounts of money for the same items and services.
What has been challenging is having to try to find creative solutions for client issues and taking a much more holistic approach. We can plan out a long term solution if required but the short term involves energy efficiency, possibly a fuel voucher and we also have Warm Packs that include a thermal blanket, hat and gloves which we give to clients.”
In the last few months, CADB has supported 280 clients through their Trust funded project. They carried out over 150 benefits checks and budget plans, helping clients realise over £163,000 in additional income.
One client to receive support was Miss M*. Miss M has diagnosed bipolar disorder, and recently moved into private rented accommodation. In April 2023, Miss M received a demand for £9,300 from her energy suppliers, dating back to before she moved into the property. She tried to contact her energy supplier to send meter readings and proof of tenancy but did not receive a response. Instead she received a further letter with a higher amount, causing her extreme distress and impacting her mental health.
Stuart spoke to the energy supplier on Miss M’s behalf and it became clear that the debt was accrued by the previous tenant. It was also noted that the meter readings the supplier had did not match those read by Miss M. £7,032 of the debt was immediately wiped off, and the rest placed on hold pending investigation. New meters were installed for Miss M, after which the supplier wiped the remaining debt, which left Miss M with a credit of £332 on her account.
Miss M was also given a full benefits check, highlighting that she may be eligible for Personal Independence Payment. She was added to the Priority Services Register and given energy efficiency advice.
“The client mentioned above was far from a ‘one off’. I have noticed a steady increase in cases since I started in March 2023. That month was around 50, in October it was 110. We will be making sure that every client that comes to us has the advice/help/support they need to get them through this period. It’s rewarding knowing that we have helped someone, and a client can put their heating on or plug their freezer back in.”
*Miss M is not her real name.
For money and energy advice local to you, please click here.
British Gas Energy Trust currently has two support funds available. The Individuals and Families Fund, and the Energy Support Fund. To check your eligibility and apply, please click here.