A four year project to improve the quality of life for vulnerable people living in fuel poverty has been launched by Cornwall’s sustainable energy and fuel poverty charity following a grant of £430,000 by the Big Lottery Fund.
Community Energy Plus’s ‘Warm Me Up!’ Project will deliver impartial advice and support to up to 1200 targeted households to help them to reduce and manage their energy bills.
Fuel Poverty, which is defined as a household spending more than 10% of income on heating, affects almost one in five households in Cornwall – the highest rate in the South West. Low income levels, rising energy costs and the high number of homes which are reliant more expensive forms of heating, because they are not served by the mains gas network, all contribute to the county’s high number of fuel poor households.
The award from the Big Lottery Fund is enabling Community Energy Plus to appoint a dedicated fuel poverty caseworker and deliver training and resources to frontline workers, volunteers and carers who through their contact with vulnerable individuals and are uniquely positioned to identify who is at risk of fuel poverty and to open-up access to help.
Advice will be made available to vulnerable people through a range of methods to suit each individual’s needs and will include home visits, advice surgeries, phone, post and email. The support offered will include help accessing grants for heating and energy efficiency measures, how to read meters and manage energy bills, tackling damp, mould and condensation as well as advice on how to save energy through behavioural change.
Over the coming weeks a ‘householder user group’ will be set up to inform project planning, delivery and evaluation. Volunteers interested in joining this group are encouraged to contact Community Energy Plus for details.
Alec Rice, Fuel Poverty Projects Manager at Community Energy Plus said: “Our pilot fuel poverty prevention programme demonstrated the value of working with frontline workers to spread awareness of fuel poverty and provide information to individuals at the greatest risk of fuel poverty about how to keep warm and reduce their energy bills. It also highlighted the importance of home visits to enable the most vulnerable individuals to receive advice on household energy management and a dedicated caseworker for the next three years will make a vital contribution to the lives of the most vulnerable householders.”
Mark Cotton, Big Lottery Fund Head of Region for the South West, said: “With winter just around the corner, meeting the rising cost of our energy bills is something many households are concerned about. But for people living in fuel poverty, it can have a massive impact on their quality of life. That’s why I’m delighted the Big Lottery Fund is supporting this vital project, which will go a long way to supporting vulnerable people manage their energy bills throughout the winter months.”
Community Energy Plus hopes that the project will have a lasting impact by leaving beneficiaries with an improved ability and confidence in understanding energy bills, managing their energy use, maintaining healthy indoor temperatures and shopping around for the best tariff. Frontline workers and community volunteers will also be more active in advising others on how to reduce their fuel bills, which will have a multiplier effect and help to spread energy awareness into the wider community.