Who Benefits?

Why CSE is backing the campaign to counter negative stereotypes

2 October 2013

CSE, along with over 50 other organisations, has put its name to the Who Benefits? campaign. It’s giving a voice to the millions of people who have been supported by benefits at some point in their lives. The aim is to counter negative stereotypes by using real stories to show the public, journalists and politicians the reality of who needs this help, why they need it and the difference that it makes.

As a key part of our fuel poverty projects, CSE actively helps and encourages people to claim the benefits they’re entitled to and usually paid for through their working lives. We’re striving to enable vulnerable people stay warmer and more comfortable in their homes - affordably. A persistently cold home causes misery, ill-health and social exclusion. Today, more than 5 million households in England can't afford to keep adequately warm in winter, often as a result of poor insulation standards and inefficient heating in their homes.

At a national level, we’ve stimulated policy change and development in the fields of area-based targeting of fuel poverty programmes, consumer feedback on their energy consumption, and policing of energy suppliers’ so-called ‘social tariffs'.

But income remains a key factor in fuel poverty. And we’ve found that making a real difference to a vulnerable household requires the combination of energy efficiency improvements and boosting incomes by ensuring they are claiming and receiving all of their benefit entitlements.

CSE translates our charitable mission to tackle fuel poverty into on-the-ground advice and support for people who are struggling to cope. We manage pioneering insulation schemes and fuel poverty advice projects like our WISH service.

One of our projects, Warm Streets, has helped struggling households across Somerset to claim and receive more than £0.25 million annually that they didn’t know they were entitled to. Our benefits advice team formed just one small part of the Warm Streets scheme, but they helped to refer around 150 people to the Department for Work and Pensions for a full benefit application.

One person who was helped by the WISH project was Mrs Crane of Minehead who described her house as an “ice box” and struggled to keep on top of the bills using just her pension, even cutting back on food and avoiding inviting friends round. Benefits advice went hand-in-hand with energy efficiency improvements; along with a new boiler and heating controls, the project helped her to apply for Attendance Allowance. Put together, these interventions both cut the cost of keeping warm and improved her lifestyle – she could afford to put the heating on, have friends around and be warm in her own living room again.

Increasing fuel prices and energy inefficient housing mean vulnerable householders’ budgets are being stretched like never before. Financial support is needed alongside energy efficiency improvements. We know the difference that benefits can make to quality of life when people are living in fuel poverty, so we’re proud to support the Who Benefits? campaign.

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