Mum 'forced to choose between food and electricity' after £760 bill

Single mum-of-five Nicola Elson says she has to fork out up to £760 a month for electricity at her flat in Hamilton.

Hamilton mum ‘forced to choose between food and electricity’ after £760 energy bill SWNS via SWNS
Nicola Elson sits with candles on at night with the heating off in order to save the pennies.

A single mum-of-two whose energy bill soared to nearly £800 a month cannot afford to heat her home and uses candles for light.

Struggling Nicola Elson, 32, says she has to fork out up to £760 a month for electricity at her two-bed flat in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.

The cleaner has lived in the property for the past year and spends the majority of her salary towards her electricity meter.

She says she sits with candles on at night with the heating off in order to save the pennies – which means her two children often have to stay elsewhere.

Ms Elson said: “There have been times I have had to pick food or electric, or I have had to borrow off friends and family to get things I have ran out of, or even to put the electric on.

“My children’s grandparents have to pay for my children’s shoes, coats, bags, lunches, sometimes clothes because everything I have goes on my meter.

“If I get something extra, I need to then struggle somewhere else, that being the meter, the internet bill, or not being able to watch TV for an hour in the morning before school.”

‘My younger two have to be with their dad and siblings because I can’t afford to have the heating or lights on at night.’

Nicola Elson

Ms Elson moved in in March 2021 and she claims, at first, she needed to put around £140 on her Pay As You Go meter every week to see her through.

The cleaner spends the majority of her salary towards her electricity meter.
The cleaner spends the majority of her salary towards her electricity meter.

She rang up her provider, ScottishPower, to enquire as to why the price for her electricity was so high.

She says she was told that it was due to her appliances, but she only had a fridge-freezer, TV, kettle and cooker at the time.

Ms Elson also heats her house using electricity with plug-in storage heaters.

She brought in an electrician who replaced her meter but this didn’t make a difference, and it is affecting the single mum’s relationship with her family.

She said: “I have five children but three of them live with their father, they come to stay with me but it has been less because of this problem.

“My younger two have to be with their dad and siblings because I can’t afford to have the heating or lights on at night.”

While she gets help from Universal Credit, Nicola buys £100 worth of food when she pays her rent that she hopes will feed her and daughters Tillie, four, and Eilidh, three, for the month.

She ensures her meals have potatoes or chips so that her girls can stay full, and is safe in the knowledge that the children get a hot meal for lunch while at nursery.

She said she struggles to buy anything extra after she has forked out for her electricity and sometimes asks friends and family to help her with her other bills or food.

Ms Elson said: “Sometimes I don’t eat breakfast or lunch so the girls can have it.

“I have had to give up so much, I have given up having my other children stay over at the weekends, I have had to give up family days out.

“I can’t do nice things with them or give them what a mother should be, because all my time goes on calling ScottishPower and all my money goes on my meter.

“I sit with candles on at night and no heating on.

“I do a morning shift which I have had to pick up to help pay for my electric on top of my evening shift.”

She has been taking medication for anxiety and depression since January, which she says is a result of her having to say goodbye to her children at the end of the day, as they can’t stay over.

She said: “I’m constantly worrying how I’m going to put money on the meter, put food on the table or even have my children stay over,

“Everything I make goes into the meter – I get paid £860 for my job as a cleaner in two schools.”

The desperate mum wants to share her experience to urge electricity companies to do something to help families like hers.

She said: “It is unfair and upsetting. I just want things to change so that companies can’t do this to people.”

A ScottishPower spokesperson said: “We’ve been actively investigating the issues raised by Ms Elson, which are complex and involve a number of factors including whether the meter she had fitted is the best one for her type of property and energy use, the significant level of top-ups provided to the account – which require to be repaid – and resolving outstanding billing issues.

“Ms Elson has now chosen to pursue the matter with the Energy Ombudsman rather than the Extra Help Unit, therefore we will continue to do what we can to support the Ombudsman’s investigation, including arranging a customer liaison visit, but we will only be able to reach resolution once the Ombudsman’s due process has concluded.”