WHEN Paul Richards was growing up, his mum had to send him to bed early to save money on heating and lighting.

Now the ethical energy pioneer and his company Together Energy are working with The National to help more people keep the lights on.

The partnership offers a market-leading green energy tariff to help readers protect themselves from possible Brexit price hikes, while also tackling poverty.

We’ll give all of our £60-a-head sign-up fee to help struggling households in the first month, as well as 10% of the proceeds for as long as they stay on the Together Energy Green Brexit Protect 25 Month deal.

The National:

Richards founded the West Dunbartonshire company after walking away from British Gas. Three years on from its launch, it has more than 150,000 customers, a turnover of £85 million and a workforce of 140.

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He chose to set up in his home town Clydebank to boost employment there and recruits through employability projects aimed at young people. Many of his staff, he says come from the same background as he does – households where money was so tight that power usage had to be cut to save cash.

But, he says, “we can’t employ everyone – working with The National will help us reach people outwith our area”.

Money from the partnership will be directed at fuel-poor households through food banks, which now provide more than groceries for those in financial crisis.

Richards says his childhood experience taught him what that is like. His mother used prepayment cards – one of the most expensive ways to heat your home and a system directed at those on low incomes. “It’s expensive to be poor,” he says.

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“It wasn’t unusual for us not to have gas and electricity on a Sunday night before my mum cashed in her Monday book. She would tell us, ‘go and get your bath, we’re going to bed early tonight’. I don’t think anyone is ever more than three months away from that, regardless of what they have got.”

Official estimates suggest that as many as one-quarter of Scottish households are fuel poor.

Living in cold, dark and damp conditions is liked to serious physical and mental health problems which cover conditions including depression, asthma and circulation disorders.

Richards wants his company, which uses renewable energy sources, to help alleviate this major social problem. “That self-disconnection, it creates huge material health issues,” he says. “We have basic rights, we should have the right to a warm house. We need to find ways to make sure that happens.”

“We’re not looking on people as victims,” he continues. “We are trying to give them a proposition that is fairly priced and gives them the freedom to make decisions like treating their kids to the carnival on a Saturday.”

Together Energy has recently switched to a new in-house computer system it says will help it deliver improved customer service – something the company is prioritising. Richards says staff recruitment and retention is a major part of that. “If customers are having problems paying their bills, our employees can understand that,” he says. “It’s really difficult to teach empathy, but if you come from that background, you can tell the difference.”

To sign up or for more information, visit www.bit.ly/national500.