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Dave* came into Citizens Advice to ask for help. Dave was disabled and he had a son who suffered from a medical condition which required him to be kept warm. Dave needed to keep the house warm and a few months ago he had switched supplier in order to save money. But now the new supplier had written to him to say that as he had built up a debt of several hundred pounds they would have to increase the monthly Direct Debit significantly in order to recoup this debt. Dave was extremely anxious as he said he didn’t have any savings to draw on and couldn’t afford the increase in the Direct Debit to pay off the debt.
The Citizens Advice adviser asked Dave about his disability and his son’s condition. She asked if he had other debts, about his income/benefits and whether his house was well insulated.
With Dave’s permission the adviser rang the company and firstly asked why the debt had built up and the Direct Debit now had to be increased. They told her that the information they had been given when Dave asked to change to them was incomplete and had been based on estimated readings from the previous company. Dave acknowledged that he had not been able to supply readings himself as his disability meant that he couldn’t reach to see the meter. The company said that they could move the meter to a place where Dave could read it, or he could change to a smart meter.
The adviser asked what options Dave had for paying off the debt and keeping the Direct Debit to a manageable amount. The company offered him 3 options. These were a full repayment of the arrears and a realistic monthly payment, a revised monthly payment which would include repayment of the debt over 12 months or a lower amount to repay the debt over 2 years. The supplier operated the Warm Home Discount scheme, which Dave could apply for and they would also offer Dave advice about saving energy.
When Dave had made his decision, the adviser suggested that he make another appointment to check if he was claiming all the benefits he and his son were entitled to and if there were any charitable grants he might be able to ask for.
*Names and circumstances have been changed to maintain confidentiality
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