On Tuesday 20th February, MSPs held a debate praising Scottish Power’s Quick Credit voucher Scheme and calling on other energy providers, including E.ON, npower, British Gas, EDF and SSE, to introduce their own schemes.

Scottish Power’s Quick Credit voucher scheme offers a £49 non-repayable credit voucher designed to support customers who are referred to foodbanks and may be in need of fuel assistance.

The damaging welfare reform of the UK Conservatives, including the roll out of Universal Credit and a punitive sanctions regime, means that more and more people across Scotland are left facing fuel poverty and being forced to rely on foodbanks.

Ardrossan based social enterprise, Citrus Energy, which operates in Cunninghame South, exists to help domestic and commercial energy consumers make genuine savings on gas and electricity costs through impartial advice and support.

Since it was authorised to use the Scottish Power voucher scheme in December 2017, it has already issued 40 vouchers to clients – with Deputy Operations Manager, Margaret Corrigan, describing the scheme as “invaluable for our vulnerable customers supplied by Scottish Power.”

One customer who was helped suffers from Pernicious Anaemia and Asthma and had been working part time on a zero hours contract.  She is also on universal credit and her working hours had interfered with her universal credit payment. She had no money whatsoever for gas and electricity and was, in her own words, ‘desperate’. She described the voucher as a ‘godsend’.

SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, welcomed the voucher scheme and highlighted the importance of ensuring that energy companies engage with widest possible range of partner agencies to deliver support to vulnerable customers – from foodbanks and citizens advice bureaus to social enterprises like Citrus Energy.

Speaking in the debate, Ruth said:

“There can be no doubt that the Quick Credit Voucher Scheme is making a real difference to people’s lives – saving individuals and families from the anxiety of having to choose between food or fuel.

“For this reason, as this campaign continues, it is important that we ensure that the widest range of organisations as possible are authorised to administer support schemes.

“With no other means to source credit for non-Scottish-Power customers, Citrus Energy has to negotiate with their suppliers to give them advance credit to allow them to have heating and light.

“In my own constituency, I intend to look into how we can expand the provision of energy support schemes so that they are accessible to as many people as possible.

“Against the backdrop of the damaging roll out of Universal Credit and destructive and punitive sanctions, it is regrettable – but a reality – that fuel poverty and reliance on foodbanks are everyday threats for many of our constituents.

“I commend Scottish Power for the social responsibility it has demonstrated through its scheme – and add my voice to the calls for the other companies to do the same.”