ZOE Smith doesn’t believe the coronavirus pandemic has been a great leveller.

The idea was expressed by the UK Government in the early weeks of the crisis, when Boris Johnson and English Health Secretary Matt Hancock were both diagnosed with Covid-19.

The notion has since been dismissed by commentators, including Newsnight anchor Emily Maitlis.

From her home in Renfrewshire, Smith says her pandemic experience has been far different to that of the Prime Minister.

The 31-year-old spends most of her time in bed as the result of two strokes and the underlying medical condition Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), which causes limb weakness, paralysis and other symptoms.

Last year she spent eight months in hospital after the second stroke, only returning home after extensive rehabilitation. She’s been in her first-floor bedroom for most the of the time since as she awaits one-level housing.

The carers who visit four times a day are a lifeline and help her manage single motherhood, with further support from her own mum.

But since the pandemic began, these visits have reduced to just once a day – a half-hour visit which allows her children time to play in their garden. Smith can’t let them out when the carers aren’t there because she can’t supervise them from one storey up.

Stuck indoors, the TV and iPads have become vital tools, not luxuries, as the youngsters, aged six and seven, do school work and pass the time.

But the extra electricity use comes at a cost. Already unable to afford to top up her gas meter, Smith had been going without heating and hot water when her electricity credit fell to 53p – putting her at risk of losing her round-the-clock emergency personal alarm, something that could have put her whole family at risk.

She sought help from the Home Energy Advice Services (HEAT) team run by the Wise Group social enterprise, which provided her with an emergency £40 fuel top-up card to keep both power supplies running.

The service is supported by donations gathered through The National’s power deal with Together Energy. For every new customer joining the Together Energy Green Brexit Protect 25 Month deal, a portion of the proceeds is funnelled into the fuel poverty fight. As much as £6000 has been handed over so far.

Smith said the support has been “fantastic” – “If I could have done cartwheels, I would have,” she said.

According to estimates, around one quarter of households in Scotland struggle to meet power costs.

In Linwood, Smith says recent weeks have been “an absolute nightmare”.

“It’s made everything so much harder,” she says. “I feel like I’m letting my kids down.

“Because I’m stuck upstairs, they’ve been stuck in the house for weeks.

“I’ve been trying to get a one-level house, but that’s all stopped now because of the coronavirus situation. If I had that, I could sit out in a

wheelchair and let them play in the garden and do things normal families do.

“They’ve got their iPads and TVs on all the time – they’re cooped-up, so what else can they do? But it’s costing so much more. It leaves me with barely anything left.

“It’s not a leveller,” she said. “That’s nuts.”

To sign up to the Together Energy Green Brexit Protect 25 Month deal, visit www.bit.ly/national500.