We’ve had a look at Stephen’s case which is a perfect example of our how advice team support vulnerable people with a really wide range of problems. The Mission does not only support people who are homeless, far from it, and Stephen’s case highlights that. It also shows just one of the difficulties people are facing at the moment. Cases such as these will only get worse as the cost of living crisis deepens and the energy price cap rises once again.
Stephen presented initially for some help with a credit card debt which had been passed to a recovery company. One of our Advice Officers managed to get this frozen for three months and also helped him to apply for cost of living and energy rebates. He then came back to see the team because he had previously thought he owed £73.48 to British Gas, but had in fact just received a bill for £1,363.51. This was to be paid within 7 days which of course caused Stephen to feel extreme panic and anxiety.
The Advice Officer contacted British Gas and they said this huge bill was due to the fact that estimated bills had been sent since he moved into the property four years earlier. Stephen was unaware that all his bills had been estimated and was confused because he had been making regular payments based on the amounts on the bills.
We queried this with British Gas and explained that Stephen has mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, and that the amended bill had made him feel very ill. British Gas were asked to send all the bills back to 2018 and they agreed to do so.
A week later the bills had still not been received and so the Advice Officer chased them once again. It transpired that the outstanding amount had been reduced to £673.75. We asked for an explanation and were told that there had been calculation errors in the previous demand, so again we asked for copies of all the bills. We were told that they had all been deleted from the system and a statement had been sent. The Advice Officer expressed concern and stressed that the customer had vulnerabilities. We then negotiated compensation of £200.00, bringing the final amount down to £473.00
The team applied for some funding for Stephen to clear the outstanding amount so that we would then be able to clear the amount owed completely and assist him to request a manageable payment plan ongoing. Also, Stephen was advised that he provides monthly meter readings to British Gas in the future.
This is far from an isolated case. Dealing with energy companies, to use just one example, is incredibly daunting to people who are suffering with poor mental health, who have limited understanding, or for whom English is not their first language. Here at the Mission, we regularly assist people from all of these groups, and more, in finding resolution to their problems.
We are currently experiencing incredibly high demand for our services and we are bracing ourselves for our busiest ever Winter. If you’d like to donate to support our vital work, you can do so here.