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Mary’s story

an older woman at home in a chair with a mobile telephone

Through our Cosier Homes Advice Service, CSE stepped in to support Mary, a carer, who had been living without heating for many months.

Mary, who lives in Newbury, had been living without central heating for four long months. Not only was it cold and draughty in the depths of winter, it was also particularly distressing as she cares for her husband who has dementia and is quadriplegic.

A cold home is bad for health, and especially bad if you have existing health conditions like Mary’s husband.

The couple had been relying on expensive oil-filled radiators to keep warm, putting a significant strain on their limited resources.

Mary believed she fell victim to an unscrupulous installer because no engineer has been able to diagnose or fix the problem with her relatively new heating system and oil boiler.

Mary’s story below highlights how the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) stepped in to support Mary, offering a helping hand during her time of need. We’re able to offer this support through the Cosier Homes Advice Service.

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The initial call to our energy advice line

Mary was referred to the CSE Cosier Homes Advice Service through her social worker. When we first spoke to Mary, it was clear that she was overwhelmed and hesitant to share any personal details due to the negative experience with the person who installed her faulty boiler. Mary had lost all trust in people.

Our CSE case worker Bego approached this delicate situation with empathy, ensuring Mary felt respected and understood. Bego carefully outlined the range of support options available, which included exploring funding avenues to replace Mary’s heating system. Understanding the importance of respecting Mary’s concerns, Bego gave her time to reflect and make decisions at her own pace.

Empowering clients to make decisions regarding their energy

When the team at CSE spoke to Mary again she was still struggling with overwhelm and was worried about her increasing energy bills. Despite being on a low income, Mary decided to take out a £7,000 loan to fund the heating repairs herself. Mary was so worried about dodgy installers and couldn’t bring herself to trust in another process.

Financial support and benefits check

CSE organised a benefits check to ensure Mary was receiving all the financial assistance she was entitled to. The focus was on empowering Mary to access the support available to her, rather than imposing assistance she might be uncomfortable with.

Collaboration with other organisations for grants and assistance

Recognising that Mary could benefit from additional specialised support, CSE referred her to Disability Energy Support at SCOPE. This partnership allowed Mary to access more grants and receive expert disability advice and rights assistance. Combining efforts with other organisations means we can give a comprehensive and effective support system for people like Mary.

The difference made with practical assistance and listening

CSE provided Mary with £147 worth of pre-payment meter vouchers. This practical assistance eased her financial burdens temporarily and offered some relief during a difficult time.

And we listened. Sometimes people who call our advice line have no one to listen to them about problems with their home and energy bills, or other challenging things going on in their lives. Sometimes people feel ashamed and hide the fact they can’t afford to heat their home from family and friends.

Having someone at the end of the phone who understands and who can offer practical support is often the lifeline people need when times are tough.

I’m so grateful for the support from the Centre for Sustainable Energy team and the other organisations. Bego was kind and offered help without any judgment.


CSE helped Mary out practically, let her call the shots, and offered clear stigma-free advice and support. Millions of people will be unable to afford their energy bills this winter. We’re working hard to make life better for people like Mary.

“Mary” requested we change her name when sharing this story.

Energy advice changes lives

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