WHAM - Warmer Homes, Advice & Money
Collaborating to solve poverty in Bristol and North Somerset
Project duration: July 2017 ongoing
The WHAM project is an innovative model for supporting Bristol and North Somerset’s most vulnerable residents – giving advice on energy, money, benefits and carrying out home repairs.
The project is an almost unprecedented example of multi-agency working together in which we, with a number of partners - Talking Money, We Care Home Improvements, Bristol and North Somerst councils, Citizens Advice, Bristol Energy Network and AMS Electrical - to provide a comprehensive service to people living in fuel poverty and financial hardship.
WHAM will particularly help those on low incomes and those living in hard to heat properties, whether these are private rentals, housing associations or their own homes.
This four year project - which began in July 2017 - now employs six caseworkers. The six work across all partner organisations, acting as a single point of contact for people using the service.
The support offered by the core organisations will cover:
- Advice on how to monitor, check and pay for your energy bills.
- Help to make your home safe and secure.
- Advice on legal, immigration and housing issues.
- Advice on benefits and money.
- Help with budgeting and debt advice.
- Tips on managing your energy use and cutting bills.
- Accessing grants for heating repairs and upgrades.
“This is the first time that Bristolians and the residents of North Somerset have been able to access these services from a single point," said Lisa Evans, CSE’s project lead. "This makes it much easier for people to get the help they need and keep in touch with their allocated caseworker which will hopefully make sure that fewer people fall through the cracks.
"We want everyone to be warm, well, safe at home, and not having to cut back on food or other essentials. Hopefully this project will go some way to achieving that.”
One of the WHAM caseworkers is Jules Bowen who works in three local NHS Trusts: Southmead Hospital in Bristol, Weston General and Bristol Royal Infirmary where she works alongside clinical and admin staff to address issues which can prevent patients from being discharged, such as poor or non-existant heating or damp problems in their homes. Hospital staff can make referrals directly by to Jules, meaning work can begin and support can be given to alleviate fuel poverty even while the patient is still in hospital.
One beneficiary of WHAM is Clare (not her real name) from North Somerset who wrote to thank the project - and caseworker, Joe Pitt - for their support.
“I only came across this service by chance and am so glad I did. As a single parent of three - two with additional needs - and on a low income, this service has been a godsend. WHAM did a home visit and looked at energy saving possibilities, both practically around the home and to see if I could make savings with my current energy providers. Joe’s advice led me to save up to £500 a year, plus free boiler cover by switching to a cheaper rate using a comparison site. He was also able to help stop some of the cold draughts around our home by having draught excluders fitted and blocking the icy air coming down our chimney. Radiator panels behind our radiators also now help make the house warmer and we were provided with energy saving bulbs. Joe has been super efficient and really helpful. Many thanks!’
WHAM has recruited and trained a team of a dozen volunteers and local voluntary groups to spot people who might need help and refer them on to the project.
From the start, WHAM has been funded by Bristol City Council through the Bristol Impact Fund. In 2019, the project was able to expand thanks for additional funding from the Bristol Energy Fuel Good Fund and the Warm Home Fund from Affordable Warmth Solutions CIC.