The Citizens Advice Bureau in Lerwick is launching a dedicated phone line for people worried about heating costs with the recent cold weather and a rise in fuel prices.
Manager Les Irving said: “We can check if you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to. In addition, if you are spending more than 10 per cent of your income on heating your home, you may be entitled to a rebate or a discounted tariff on your electricity costs and help with improving the energy efficiency of your home.”
The line is being launched in partnership with Shetland Islands Council and other agencies, in response to growing concerns about people struggling with heating costs this winter.
One client who attended the bureau, a single parent on benefits, said: “I have found the cost of heating my house this winter has increased over 50 per cent. This has meant I have switched off most of the heaters in the house, and mainly just heat the living room.
“On really cold nights we go to my mother’s house to sleep, as it’s warmer there. The amount of benefit has not increased in line with how much heating costs have gone up, and we’re really struggling to manage.”
Mr Irving said: “Folk may be unaware what assistance is out there to help them. Our specialised advisers can look at each case individually, and help them complete any necessary paperwork in order to access benefits, rebates or reduced electricity tariffs, depending on what they are eligible for.
“We can also assist them to get help with accessing services to improve the efficiency of their home. They can also be reassured that all our advice is free, confidential and independent.”
The bureau ran a similar campaign in 2008 which focused on the over-60s age group. The campaign helped in over 60 separate cases, and resulted in annual financial gains in benefits of almost £50,000 for the clients. In addition, over £7,500 of savings on heating costs were made. The new campaign is aimed at people of all ages who are struggling with heating costs.
The telephone number is (01595) 743950 and is open from 10th to 21st January, Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 12.30pm.