Newest Review: ... helped towards a deposite for rental accommodation. So thank you very much SWALEC. Also to the people we spoke to for you rude & di... more
Help With Your Bills
Member Name: QueenElf
Date: 10/08/11, updated on 15/10/11 (416 review reads)
Advantages: Excellenct customer service. also see the review
Disadvantages: Fuel Rises affects everyone.
I don't normally publish two reviews in one day but I've just had some good news about my energy account and thought I'd share this with other people wondering whether to switch utility suppliers.
I'm not going to do a full review of Swalec, as the intention is get this online quickly and hopefully help others in my position. It will mean talking a bit about benefits, but this is done for a reason and please do not comment on my own situation, I manage quite well.
I've been with Swalec for about 15 years now. I did once decide to change suppliers but reverted back when I kept getting estimated bills. As a company Swalec supply both gas and electricity and are part of the Scottish energy chain. Overall they have been pretty good to me so I won't comment on any bad reviews I've heard about them. Also, they have recently given their intention to hike up energy prices by 9% on the electricity and 18% on gas. I was horrified, where would I get the money to pay the extra bills? I am on very low benefits. I get incapacity benefit and a small amount of income support in the form of a disability premium but I lose much of that because I get a higher amount of Incapacity money as I have this on my paid stamps. It is a little confusing, but for people like me I'm sure they will understand this calculation.
Incapacity Benefit is paid for someone who is too ill to work and is paid at two rates.
One is just over £90 and is paid weekly to people who have paid enough national insurance stamps to qualify without means testing.
The second rate is about £60 and is means tested.
If you have a disability (I qualify for the lower rate of Disability living allowance for mobility purposes), then there is a top up payment of about £25 and this is means tested income support. It's this premium that's so important to my review.
For about two years Swalec have run a scheme that is government backed for people who struggle with paying utility bills and have ill health. It worked out that customers were charged 20% less on their gas and electric units used. It proved a big help to me but last winter's bills were naturally high with the terrible winter we had in Wales (along with the rest of the country). This scheme run out in April of this year and I got a letter saying that I would still qualify for a £100 at the end of April 2012 since the other scheme had been scrapped. This seemed okay until the price rises were announce. Still, I hadn't heard of any other supplier who offered lower prices to people under 60 and I'm 59. I resolved to stay with my suppliers since any help was better than none and other suppliers will probably put up their prices soon.
My meters were read on Monday and I was pleased to hear that I was well in credit; enough to compensate for the price rises. I chatted to the meter reader who knew about the old Energycare plus scheme as it was called. I told him it seemed a bit unfair that I'd struggled all winter to keep my bills down by heating just one room. It's a large room with two radiators, but he was concerned that I'd struggle again this year. He then said he thought there might be something different to help with the bills, but I thought it was the £100 credit mentioned, that would be added to my bill at the end of the year. As he wasn't sure he called the office and arranged for an advisor to come and see me today.
We went through the different tariffs and he confirmed that there was help available. I answered some questions, went though my benefit details and discovered that I qualified for a one-off payment of 120 at the end of the financial year. Also, they now run a 'tracker tariff', which promises to charge 2%, lower than the new charges. Would I be interested? Of course I would. I didn't go into details but I believe this is open to all Swalec customers; it's certainly worth checking.
But what if energy prices dropped? Then the tracker will be 2% lower still even if prices drop a lot. I haven't had the paperwork yet, but I cannot see any hitches to that. I'll certainly add to the review if it isn't as good as it seems to be.
My advisor then checked out my lighting and asked if I had enough of the energy saving light bulbs, which I'd received from them. I did, but there are some lighting systems in my home that doesn't use the standard bayonet bulbs. I have two up lighters with three candle bulbs. I tried ordinary energy saving ones but they were too heavy. Although Swalec don't provide these free of charge, I can get some at various discount stores and since I have trouble standing on ladders to change the bulbs, he said just give him a call and he will come out and change them for me. They even will pay for the call!
I'm so relieved that I'm not only in credit, but that I don't have to increase my monthly payments. I could have decreased them slightly, but I want to stay in credit. This year I'm not going to shiver under a blanket, I will still read my meters and check what I'm using, but I have always been careful of that anyway.
Knowing I have someone to call is also a bonus. I have the advisor's card and sure enough the card says the following: -
Always happy to help you, your family and community with:
Energy tariff Information
Energy Efficiency advise
Energy saving devices
Obviously this won't help everyone, but it does put a different face on the prospect of winter fuel bills. I do hope this helps anyone like me. Just call up your local supplier and see what they advice, or check the online sites, though they won't know your own personal details. Maybe other companies help like this. I can't praise the advisor more and the meter reader who did more than his job, he listened and acted on it.
15.10 I just had a letter from Swalec today confirming that they are paying me a loyalty 'bonus' into my account, but it will be put in next week instead of April. Maybe it's a goodwill gesture because of all the media fuss, but I'd like to think they are helping me through the winter months. I will now have 100 pounds in my account before the bad weather that's been forecast. Thank you Swalec.
Summary: Some help for people on benefits.
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