How communities can tackle fuel poverty
3 December 2021
Today, 3 December 2021, is fuel poverty awareness day, and Harriet Sansom reflects on the role of community in tackling fuel poverty.
In the UK, fuel poverty affects around 13 per cent of households (3.2m). Behind the statistics are real people living in homes that are cold and often damp, and who struggle to pay their fuel bills. It can be a miserable experience and has a negative impact on people’s physical and mental health.
Community groups and organisations, whatever their size or remit, can play a key role in the fight against fuel poverty. One way of contributing is through 'signposting' – helping people access the help they need.
Fuel-poor households often experience complex and overlapping issues relating to housing, debt and health, and there are advice agencies with experts who can support those who are struggling. Some households may not know about these sources of support or feel anxious about contacting them; being encouraged or even just reminded to reach out can really help.
The role of 'energy champion' is designed to do just this. Energy champions are local residents who are trained in energy awareness, often by a local energy agency like CSE. They become the go-to people in the community for informal energy advice, and may run regular energy advice session, support households with carrying out domestic energy efficiency surveys or link residents with relevant council schemes for insulation or heating upgrades.
Community workshops or gatherings can also provide a fun way to get people together in a relaxed environment in which they can talk about their energy experiences – rising gas or electricity bills, staying warm and so on – and where energy tips and information can be passed on.
Easy and low-cost examples include a hands-on session of ‘How to make a draughtproofing snake’, or a slow-cooker demo and recipe swap. Slow cookers are more energy efficient than standard electric ovens so this is an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of slow cooking as a way to save money as well as social event around which healthy, low-cost food can be shared.
We’ve developed resources and how-to guides to enable more communities to explore community-based approaches to tackling fuel poverty, and have shared these resources with community networks and umbrella organisations. There is also heaps of energy advice to share on CSE's advice site: www.cse.org.uk/advice. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
See below a video showcasing our top tips on how your community can take action on fuel poverty.