In December 2014, Ebico Trust Trustee, Hugh Lee and members of Ebico staff, visited the Trust funded, Fuel Poverty project, which is administered by Rushmoor Healthy Living. In 2011 Ebico Trust funding had saved the project from closing down when funding was provided for one year. Further funding, for another year, was then agreed in February 2014 due to the success of the project.
Rushmoor Healthy Living’s (RHL) Fuel Poverty project is helping those individuals that have slipped into fuel poverty and debt. The RHL team initially makes sure that they are billed correctly by their supplier, that there no obvious issues with their energy meters and that they are on the right tariff for them. They also, if necessary, help those clients to switch their tariff or energy supplier, complete fuel debt and other debt relief grant forms, arrange manageable repayments with their creditors, making sure that they are recipients of all the benefits they are entitled to, as well as helping them with their budgeting and much more. Apart from working with the individuals that are already affected by fuel poverty, they also work with people that are at a higher risk of being affected by it, and help them to implement a certain preventive measures to avoid this from happening in the future.
The project team, Carol, Tom and Jim, are all trained and certified debt advisors, and last year they helped 13,410 people and tackled a combined £1,149,702.00 worth of debt. This year they have already dealt with similar amount of debt and, by April 2015, are expecting to exceed last year’s amount. On our day with RHL team we visited two of their current clients, Miss N and the Life Housing charity.
Miss N lives with her 4 years old son and was over £9,000 in debt when she contacted RHL. She had struggled to pay her debts while she was looking for a job. Due to the situation she found herself in, she started suffering from depression. As well as her other debts, her energy supplier also had changed her credit meters to pre-payment ones. Once she ran out of solutions she contacted RHL for help. The RHL team helped her, first, with her budgeting, and she was then switched to the best energy deal for her. They had then arranged manageable repayment amounts with all the creditors. She is now able to slowly repay her debts while still having some cash left to live on. Miss N said that she is not as depressed as she used to be and can focus more on dedicating time to her son. She is much happier as the pressure had been lifted off her shoulders. RHL will continue to support Miss N for as long as she needs their help.
We also visited Life Housing, one of the largest providers of accommodation for pregnant women and unsupported mothers aged between 16-25 years in the UK. The young women are supported for a maximum of 24 months during which they are helped to become independent. Carol from RHL provides the house tenants with an independent budgeting and debt advice and helps them with their financial planning, existing debt management as well as energy and fuel debt advice. In this case, fuel debt and energy advice is used as a preventive measure in order avoid the tenants from slipping into fuel poverty and debt in the future.
The house manager is grateful for the service that Carol from RHL provides to the house tenants, as specialist advice in some cases has a greater effect than the general advice that the house manager can give. This is frequently the case with money advice, which is often a sensitive topic for the tenants.
The RHL team has many more examples of how they helped those in fuel and general poverty, and have proven that they are very proactive in tackling those issues, by providing preventive or proactive measures. We can’t wait for their end of year project report to see the amount of debt they have managed to tackle by April next year!