Family of Scots mum left paying £50 a day for electricity worried stress having ‘major impact’ on health

The family of a mother who was left paying £50 a day for her electricity say she has been ‘living in nightmare’ they worry has affected her health.

Mary Quinn is one of 700 Falkirk Council tenants who live in areas that do not have gas and so have electric heating systems called Thermaflow. In December we reported 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.

These were installed 10 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.

After our story from the local democracy team was published, 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.

Now her family say they believe Mary, who has suffered from an aneurysm in the past, has endured so much stress from the situation that it has had 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 just £50 a month for his electricity, while his central heating and hot water use solid fuel.

He added: “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.”

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Mary is now anxiously waiting for news of a new heating system being installed – when she hopes the nightmare will come to an end.

But the mum is keen to thank well-wishers for their support over Christmas after her story hit the headlines.

Kind member of the public have offered their help to Mary by sending small donations.

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.

While many of the Falkirk Council tenants affected live in the Upper Braes villages, Mary’s is just one of two houses in South Alloa that use the controversial heating system.

Falkirk Council has committed to spending £8 million to change the heating systems, including nearly £6 million to install gas in several villages.

Mary’s tiny 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.

The council have also referred Mary to a food bank and a debt advisor.

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “An officer spoke to Ms Quinn on 21st of December and after speaking to her regarding her circumstances, a KLSB Food pantry referral was requested via Finance and referrals for both Debt Advice and Housing Support the same day. So everything was done on the 21.12.21

“We have also been in contact with the tenant re the installation of a new heating system. At this time we are unable to provide indicative dates for system replacement but will update Ms Quinn as soon as we possibly can.”

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.”

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