A desperate woman has shared her despair after being left with no heating and no hot water for the best part of a week after her smart meter stopped working – leaving her sleeping on the sofa in her lounge with only an electric fire to keep her warm. Margaret Rees lives in Port Talbot and is largely housebound, needing a walking frame and wheelchair when she ventures outside.
According to WalesOnline, she has had a stairlift fitted in her home to take her up and down the stairs to bed but for the past six days, she hasn’t dared sleep in her bedroom because of the cold.
For the past year or so she has had a smart meter in her home which she tops up to pay for her gas supply. She normally does this by topping up her card at a nearby shop with the aid of one of her family members. However, on Monday she awoke on a chilly October morning to find that she had no gas supply in her home – no central heating, no hot water, and no means of cooking her breakfast.
“It was Monday morning and I realised I didn’t have any gas,” said Margaret. “They’ve put one of these smart meters in the house but I’ve started having issues with it. I’ve asked if I can switch to paying by direct debit but it’s as if they are forcing you to use these meters and I think they are doing it with a lot of older people.”
The issue for Margaret started when the smart meter was not topping up as it should have done. Because her meter is fitted low down near the floor of her property trying to correct the issue is an impossible task for a 79-year-old woman in her physical condition. Instead, she has to call a member of her family to come around who can then call the supplier and get on their hands and knees to be talked through how to correct the problem.
When this happened a few times Margaret grew increasingly frustrated and asked her supplier, SSE, if she could switch to a credit mode and pay by direct debit. According to a message she received from the company this should have been actioned almost a month ago.
The company said: “Hello, as requested, we’re remotely changing the mode of your Pay As You Go gas meter to credit mode. This will take place on September 18. An engineer does not need to visit your home.” However, since the beginning of the week she has had no gas supply at all and her in-home display tells her she is £7.64 in debt, advising her to “please top up to reconnect your supply”.
“They’ve told me to top the meter up,” said Margaret. “But I’ve got to go down to the shop with my card to do that and come back and if it doesn’t work I need to call my daughter, my son, or my daughter-in-law to try to sort it. But I can’t keep getting someone to come round all the time.”
Margaret’s daughter-in-law Nicola Jenkins admitted that they don’t really know what to do next as the property has already been without gas for several days.
“She pays for her electric by direct debit and she wants to change to direct debit for her gas,” said Nicola, who lives in the Valleys. “They agreed to do that but there’s been no gas at all since Monday morning and we’ve been on the phone to the company since then. We were told it could take another 28 days to sort out. We’ve spoken to so many different people in so many different departments. One person said it would be back on within the hour, another said they would call us back within 20 minutes. We have no idea what’s going on. There’s no gas and we’ve been on the phone all the time.”
For Margaret, the biggest concern is living in a property with no central heating in mid-October with winter fast approaching and temperatures dropping.
“I have no heating, no hot water, nothing,” she said. “They are trying to force me to put money on this meter but I can’t keep having trouble with it. It might work to start with but I will have trouble with it again and I can’t really get to the shop all the time to get credit and if I do I can’t bend down to fix the issues I’ve been having with the meter. I just want to be put on a direct debit.
“I have an electric fire and I’m sleeping on the sofa in the lounge. I can’t go upstairs because it’s too cold.” Margaret can’t cook in her home either and has needed to rely on the basics to get by over the past week. “My son brought me round some chips for my dinner yesterday and I have a toaster so I can have a bit of toast.”
SSE has been approached comment on the concerns raised by Margaret and her family.