Edinburgh pensioner left freezing with no power supply for 30 hours as temperatures plummeted
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James Strachan, 67, was forced to sit freezing in his home in Restalrig without heat and lights for more than a day after his smart meter mysteriously changed mode and cut off.
The frail OAP - who has other serious health issues - had left the house during the night at Christmas because he was confused and disoriented.
The issue was thought to have been caused by the smart meter with Utilita confirming there would be an investigation into similar claims regarding issues with new smart meters.
When his heating stopped working on Sunday he called his son Greg and daughter-in-law Leanne Cuthbert. The couple called the emergency out-of-hours number for supplier Utilita and were told he was a priority customer and an engineer would be out in four hours.
But after nobody showed up Leanne called again in the evening only to be told the engineer had cancelled and that he would have to wait until Monday.
After he had sat shivering for over 28 hours Leanne said they were getting nowhere with the supplier despite several calls and contacted the Evening News.
An engineer was sent within hours of us chasing them up and Mr Strachan is now basking in a warm home again after his heating was turned back on.
Leanne said the engineer claimed the problem had been an issue with his smart meter which had seen it convert automatically to prepaid meter mode, though Mr Strachan paid by direct debit.
She said: “My father-in-law sat without power since 11am on Sunday. He has leukaemia so has to take a hot meal before he takes his medication. Utilita where first contacted around 2pm on Sunday. I was told that there was nothing they could do and he’d need to wait until today. When I called the emergency out of hours number I was then told he’s a priority. At 8pm on Sunday I called again to ask why no engineer had been. Apparently the engineer cancelled and gave no reason why. They couldn’t send anyone else out as everyone finished at 5pm. It was really upsetting and we were worried.”
"We also tried to get help from social care direct but they said we’d be better leaving him at home and not to worry about him being cold and in the dark as he’s used to it when he’s in bed. Social work services couldn’t help as they were off until later this week.
"I dread to think what would have happened to James if he hadn’t called us. I couldn’t believe how heartless they were or the disregard for someone vulnerable. We’ve had to bin all his food, it all defrosted. He gets quite confused and could have eaten something off.”
“Apparently his smart meter changed to a prepayment metre by itself and they’d had several reports of this happening. He pays by direct debit and doesn’t have the card to top up the meter. It was all so frustrating. Thanks to the Evening News for helping us get heating back on for my Dad.”