Advice Direct Scotland, which runs the national advice hub energyadvice.scot, has received around 370 calls per day throughout December – up from an average of 80 during the same month in 2021.
Following two emergency energy summits convened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Government said “good progress has been made to make sure those most in need of help are receiving the right support.”
The advice hub provides free, practical advice and information on energy-related matters including billing and meters, switching suppliers, grants and assistance, and complaints and disputes.
Expert advisers can answer a wide range of queries and help facilitate conversations between customers and their energy suppliers.
They can also refer people to sources of support like the Home Heating Support Fund, which is a strand of the Scottish Government’s £20 million Fuel Insecurity Fund for 2022-23.
The Fuel Insecurity Fund provides financial help to vulnerable households at risk of self-disconnection, or to those who are rationing their energy use.
Advice Direct Scotland has been delivering the Home Heating Support Fund, providing relief to energy consumers who are experiencing significant financial hardship.
Individual households can apply through www.homeheatingadvice.scot by choosing the ‘household application’ route, provided they have received money and/or energy advice from an accredited advice agency.
The charity can also make referrals on to the fund on a customer’s behalf.
energyadvice.scot advisors can be contacted on 0808 196 8660 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm), or through www.energyadvice.scot.
This year, Advice Direct Scotland took part in two emergency energy summits convened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The summits, in August and October, brought together energy companies, advice agencies and third sector organisations to discuss the impact of the cost-of-living crisis – driven largely by rising energy prices and inflation – on Scottish households.
These have resulted in more direct engagement between advice services and suppliers, with energy companies now clearly signposting customers struggling with their bills to sources of support like energyadvice.scot on their websites.
They also improved practical working arrangements to ensure that people most in need of help are treated as a priority.
The Scottish Energy Insights and Coordination Group, led by Consumer Scotland, was also created to ensure policymakers have up to date information of the impact of energy costs and to prepare proposals for ministers designed to improve consumer outcomes.
Advice Direct Scotland provides interconnected support to customers experiencing complex and compounded issues, and can offer information and advice on a range of money and debt-related issues through its moneyadvice.scot service.
Information on wider support relating to the cost-of-living crisis can be found on the Scottish Government website at costofliving.campaign.gov.scot.
Commenting, Andrew Bartlett, chief executive, said: “Over the past year we have witnessed a rapid rise in the daily number of calls to our national energyadvice.scot service.
“We know that many people are finding themselves in precarious situations when it comes to their household finances, and this will be compounded during the winter months as the temperature drops.
"Advice Direct Scotland was pleased to take part in two summits held by the First Minister this year.
“These have undoubtedly resulted in progress being made on improving access to support to those who need it most, and more direct engagement between advice agencies and suppliers.
“It is important for people to know they do not have to struggle alone.
"We can offer information and advice on a wide range of money-related issues, including energy bills and debt, and can help those who are experiencing multiple issues.
"We would encourage anyone who is finding it difficult to cope to contact our advisers.”
Michael Matheson, Net Zero and Energy Secretary, said: “This remains a deeply unsettling time for many thousands of people – both in Scotland and across the UK.
“We estimate that the UK Government’s higher price cap from April 2023 will result in around 980,000 households being fuel poor in Scotland - 120,000 more than there are currently estimated to be at present based on the £2500 price cap.
“The UK Government needs to carefully consider the impact that this rise will have on those that are in or at risk of fuel poverty.
"The Scottish Government will, in the meantime, continue to do everything in our power to mitigate the impact of the energy price crisis on consumers this winter.
“Alongside tangible help – such as doubling our Fuel Insecurity Fund to £20 million this year and continuing it next year – we have also been working with energy companies and consumer organisations to support as many people as possible with their energy bills.
"Through the energy summits and our ongoing collaboration, good progress has been made to make sure those most in need of help are receiving the right support.”