Even though the sun is shining across Essex, for many the prospect of a cold winter and affording heating will be a year-round worry.
However, new funding announced will see even more people in Essex who are at risk of fuel poverty, supported with paying their energy bills and keeping their homes warm this winter.
Essex County Council, alongside the Citizens Advice Service launched “Warm Homes Essex” earlier in the year. This initiative sees a team of specialist energy advisers operating across the county who work with clients identified as being in “fuel poverty” and help them to improve their financial and physical circumstances.
The £775,000 funding comes from the £150m Warm Homes Fund, established by National Grid and administered by Community Interest Company, Affordable Warmth Solution (AWS).
The funding is designed to support local authorities, registered social landlords and other organisations working in partnership with them, to address some of the issues affecting fuel poor households.
Cllr Susan Barker, Cabinet Member for Customer, Corporate, Culture and Communities said: “No one in this day and age should be suffering because of the cold. The Warm Homes Fund is another way that we can ensure we are helping those most in need during their most challenging months, so we welcome this funding.”
“Even though we are seeing a lovely warm summer on the horizon, we must think ahead and act before the cold weather kicks in to ensure people are prepared and supported.”
Fuel poverty is when a person’s energy costs represents a high percentage of their income, this might be because of very high energy costs arising from an energy inefficient home, or a low income but more commonly a combination of these factors.
The focus of the project is to support those whose health is adversely affected or at risk from living in a cold home. This includes older people, people with illness or disabilities or families with children with asthma.
The advice provided by the service is intensive and personalised, taking place over an extended period in order to ensure everything that can be done to improve the householder’s circumstances is done – such as maximising benefit entitlements, resolving disputes with energy suppliers, addressing debt problems and applying for grants to improve the energy efficiency of the home.
Citizens Advice is keen to reach out to people who might be struggling, and who could benefit and not reaching out.
Martin Lord, Director of Development from Citizens Advice Essex, the consortium body for the Citizens Advice service in the county said:
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Essex County Council in order to deploy this new funding. It’s enabling us to deliver a package of services that will hopefully make a big difference for people.”
“In the current climate many households on low incomes are struggling to afford their energy costs and although it seems a way off, as the winter approaches, we want as many people as possible to contact us because we can really help.”
Jeremy Nesbitt, Managing Director of Affordable Warmth Solutions, said:
“We are excited about this investment from National Grid and are delighted to support Essex County Council to fund the scheme to address fuel poverty across the region.”
“Solving the issues associated with Fuel Poverty continues to challenge many of our stakeholders and the feedback we’ve already received provides evidence of how the Warm Homes Fund will make a positive difference to thousands of homes throughout Great Britain.”
For more information and to see if you are eligible, please contact the Warm Homes team on 0300 3033 789 or by submitting their enquiry online through their website www.warmhomesessex.org.uk