North Somerset Warm Families
Lifting families out of fuel poverty
Project duration: December 2010 to November 2012
North Somerset Warm Families was a two-year project funded by the Scottish Power Energy People Trust that worked to reduce fuel poverty among families. Research suggests that families with children, particularly single parents, struggle more than other low income groups with paying fuel bills, often resorting to turning their heat down or off in winter to save money. The project provided over 1200 people from families like these with fuel poverty advice and support, through home visits, advice surgeries and local events.
95 families in fuel poverty received home visits from advisors. We demonstrated practical measures like setting heating controls, taking meter readings and looking more in-depth at fuel bills, including liaising with fuel suppliers on the householder’s behalf – all of which are imperative for helping householders manage their energy use more effectively within their means. At the same time we could see whether any improvements to the property were needed to increase its energy efficiency. The families we visited gave very positive feedback. One householder said:
‘I just think you're brilliant. Really nice and friendly staff. The advice has been great and about 80% of what you told me I had no idea about. My condensation and mould problems have got loads better from the advice you gave me and this means my son's health is so much better as he used to get really bad asthma. I’m so much warmer ‘cos I’m using the heating controls on my boiler and spending less on gas. Thank you so much!’
Energy advice surgeries resulted in a great deal of advice and information being provided as well as referrals for home visits. During a typical advice surgery we had one advisor doing an activity with the children such as making draught-proofing snakes, while the other spoke to the parents.
607 energy-saving measures were installed in people’s homes. These included rundown timer plugs, ‘standby’ starter kits, energy monitors, low energy light bulbs and draught proofing measures. These were largely distributed to families at outreach events and at home visits. We followed this up with advice on how to get the most out of the particular device or measure. We also made 29 referrals for loft and cavity insulation (to the local authority backed Warm Streets CERT scheme) and heating improvements through Warm Front.
Energy awareness workshops were run in schools for young people from low income families. Feedback from the schools about the workshops was overwhelmingly positive. Janine Ashman from St Peter’s Primary, Portishead said:
‘I just wanted to send a huge thank you for spending Friday with us and delivering some fantastic workshops. The children were so enthusiastic and Year 5 are already planning their presentation to Governors! Thank you also for staying at the parents’ workshops - I bumped into some mums at the weekend and they were talking about it.’
Over 200 social and health care professionals were trained on fuel poverty issues. This included midwives and health visitors, family support workers, children’s centre workers, housing support staff from housing associations, Citizens Advice Bureau staff, North Somerset Against Domestic Abuse staff, Somerset Racial Equality Council staff, Police Community Support Officers and Home Start staff, and volunteers.
Those trained consistently reported an improved knowledge of energy efficiency and fuel poverty, and they told us that the information would prove useful when working with clients.
Future fuel poverty work
As a result of the partnerships and increased fuel poverty awareness made through this project, CSE and partners have been able to obtain further funding from the local authority and other public sources to continue to support fuel poverty alleviation in North Somerset in 2013.