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Four Years of Support in Clydesdale

October 11, 2023

Four Years of Support in Clydesdale Featured Image

Pictured above: Matthew Cole, Head of Fuel Bank Foundation with Cllr Julia Marrs

by Matthew Cole, Head of Fuel Bank Foundation

It’s been four years since Fuel Bank Foundation opened its first Fuel Bank Centre in Clydesdale, South Lanarkshire. Back then, the charity was in its relative infancy, with only a handful of centres dotted around the country.

We have come a long way since then, with 155 Fuel Bank Centres now in operation across Scotland and more than 650 in the UK, providing support to families who prepay for their energy but can’t afford to keep their meters topped up.

Last week I had the privilege of being invited back to Clydesdale to attend a fuel poverty and debt advice surgery hosted by Cllr Julia Marrs, herself a long-time supporter of and advocate for Fuel Bank Foundation.

I first met Julia in 2017 when she was working with Christina McKelvie MSP to set up a scheme to provide quick crisis support to residents in her ward. She had a relationship with Scottish Power – headquartered a few miles away – but was unable to support people who were supplied by any other supplier. Julia was keen to open a Fuel Bank Centre in her ward, recognising the wider need to provide emergency support to people in Clydesdale.

Poverty remains a major issue in Scotland, despite efforts by the Government to tackle it. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, more than a million people – including 250,000 children – in the country are living in relative poverty, with nearly half a million people classed as being in ‘very deep poverty’ – an increase of 300,000 since March 2022. Low incomes and high food and fuel bills mean that for many making ends meet is getting more difficult.

Indeed, higher fuel bills have contributed to a rise in the number of people in fuel poverty in Scotland. Since 2019, there has been a 38% increase in households that are deemed to be in fuel poverty.

In Scotland, a household is defined as being in fuel poverty if more than ten per cent of its net income (after housing costs) is required to heat the home and pay for other fuel costs. If more than 20 per cent of net income is needed, the household is classed as being in extreme fuel poverty.

Like much of Scotland, Clydesdale, which is a very rural part of South Lanarkshire, can see harsh winters, and with areas of multiple deprivation and thousands of people claiming welfare benefits, life can be hard. 

It was Julia’s own first-hand experience of people asking for a foodbank referral, with little or no money on their prepayment meter, that prompted Julia to reach out to Fuel Bank Foundation for help and support. 

Working in partnership with Clydesdale Food Bank, our first Fuel Bank Centre was opened in 2019 and has been well received since day one, thanks to Julia and everyone else involved with the foodbank. 

Today, the food and fuel bank continue to provide a vital lifeline for the people of Clydesdale and South Lanarkshire, and I was pleased to witness this for myself on my visit back to the area and to see the great work that Julia is still doing to support her constituents, by providing practical advice and guidance to those who need it most. 

This is, of course, just one of the many examples of the great work being done across Scotland and the rest of the UK by local councillors, charities and other community organisations. 

So, on behalf of Fuel Bank Foundation, I would like to thank Julia for continuing to champion our cause and for the kind invitation and warm welcome back to Clydesdale – I hope not to leave it so long next time.