A mother left paying £50 a day for her electricity has thanked well-wishers for their support over Christmas after her story hit the headlines.
Mary Quinn was touched to receive lots of messages after the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed that since a price hike in October she has been paying as much as £50 a day for her electricity – in a two-bedroom council house.
However, her family have raised concerns about the state of her health as a result of the situation.
Mary is one of 700 Falkirk Council tenants who live in areas that do not have gas and so have electric heating systems called Thermaflow.
These were installed ten years ago, but in the last three years a series of energy price rises has left tenants facing bills that even those in full-time work struggle to pay.
Following her story, Falkirk Council arranged for an engineer from Neat Heat to inspect her boiler – and while they didn’t find any faults, they did advise her that it would be cheaper to keep it on 24 hours a day, rather than turning it on and off.
That has reduced the cost – but she is still paying around £35 every day.
The council also referred her to a food bank and a debt advisor – while generous readers sent her donations and food over the festive season.
One card came addressed simply to ‘Mary Quinn, South Alloa’, enclosing £20 and wishing her well; another got in touch to say she was setting up a JustGiving page; while someone else left a bag of shopping on her doorstep.
But, despite the support, Mary says she is still living in a nightmare, which her family believes is having a major impact on her health.
Her brother, Raymond, said: “She’s going for an MRI this month because they think she has another aneurysm and I think that’s because of this stress for such a long time.
“I see it because I live just a couple of doors away and I can’t get my head round why this hasn’t been resolved.
“It’s not just affected her – it’s affected us as a family. I would say over the last few years I’ve easily spent £10,000 helping her.
“You put electric in and the next day it’s disappeared – it’s just incredible.”
Raymond, who lives in exactly the same style of house, pays £50 a month for his electricity, while his central heating and hot water use sold fuel.
“I’m paying £50 a month for electricity and she’s over £1000 – there’s definitely something really wrong here.
“It’s quite hard to see your little sister in tears, saying ‘what else can I do?’
“She’s got kids and she’s having to make decisions about whether to eat or pay for electricity.”
Mary is now waiting for news of a new heating system being installed – when she hopes her nightmare will come to an end.
While many of the Falkirk Council tenants affected live in the Upper Braes villages, Mary’s property is just one of two houses in South Alloa that use the controversial heating system.
Falkirk Council has committed to spending £8m to change the heating systems, including nearly £6m to install gas in several villages.
Mary’s small village will not get gas but she has been told that she will get a new heating system before too long.
However, as yet there is no definite date.
A ScottishPower spokesperson said: “For over two years, we’ve worked closely with Falkirk Council on this issue and we fully support its decision to replace the inefficient heating systems it installed in these properties.”
Story by local democracy reporter Kirsty Paterson