OPENing up to peer support

New network of volunteers aims to reach out to older people

2 February 2012

The most trusted sources of information are often those closest to you, and people are generally more likely to believe friends, neighbours or relatives than people in positions of authority.

One of the biggest difficulties that CSE's energy advisors face is gaining the trust and confidence of those they are meeting for the first time. Many people struggling in fuel debt or on low incomes find it hard to differentiate between those who want to help and those who don’t.

This is particularly the case amongst older people, and CSE’s latest advice project the Older Person’s Energy Network (OPEN) aims to address this.

“Our experience through previous advice projects has shown that advice is more successful and reaches those in need if it is from a trusted source within the community, particularly peer-to-peer support,” explained Verity Saunders, Senior Project Manager at CSE.

“A key element of this particular project will be to engage with older people and train them in the basics of energy advice. They will then partner our advisors to get out in their community and reach other older people.”

Starting this month, the new three-year project is funded by the Big Lottery Reaching Communities’ funding stream. It will reach out to older people suffering from fuel poverty in the West of England – Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset.

Activities will include a presence at older-people focused community events, advice surgeries held at community locations, training of other professionals working with older people, and home visits to those most in need.

Mark Cotton, Big Lottery Fund Head of Region for the South West, said: “Older people are among those to suffer most from the cold and with winter around the corner, it is imperative that projects such as OPEN continue to tackle fuel poverty. I am pleased to see National Lottery funding being used to support an array of projects supporting older people and others in need across the region.”

Join us
CSE is now recruiting for volunteers to join the network. If you would like to find out how you could be a part of OPEN, please contact Verity Saunders on 0117 934 1415.

Photo: Nick Petton | reproduced under creative commons

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