Help from social services
Local authorities have duties to provide services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need and promote the upbringing of such children by their families.1s17 Children Act 1989; s22 Children (Scotland) Act 1995 This could include negotiating with a supplier on your behalf when necessary. In exceptional circumstances, this can also include providing assistance in cash; a policy not to provide such assistance in any circumstances at all would almost certainly be unlawful, and could be challenged by way of judicial review (see Chapter 14). If such payments are available, you can argue that they can be used to meet all or part of a fuel bill, to buy alternative means of cooking or heating, or to provide other aids for keeping warm, such as blankets. In Scotland, there are also powers to promote social welfare by ‘making available advice, guidance and assistance’ to people in need aged 18 or over.2s12 Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 This can include giving assistance in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash, where giving assistance would avoid you needing greater assistance from the local authority at a future date.
If you are seeking help from social services in an emergency (eg, because the supplier is threatening disconnection), inform your supplier. Suppliers’ codes of practice allow for a delay in disconnection, normally for about two weeks, while a local authority investigates whether it can help, but this delay will only happen if you ensure the supplier knows of the council’s involvement.
Social workers may also have good links with and/or be prepared to make referrals to charities for you.