Last have visited the Ebico Trust Funded – Northfield Warm Homes project, provided by The Northfield Eco Centre. The project targets fuel poor households mostly via one of their current partner network including Age UK, Northfield Community Partnership, Bromford Housing, Bromford Support, Northfield Baptist Church, Aquarius, My Home Finance, Northfield Stroke Club, South Birmingham, Homeless Project and Trussel Trust (B30). The fuel poor households are initially identified by partners while dealing with their own clients. Since the partners are often not able to provide home visits, and therefore identify the extent of fuel poverty, they make a referral to The Eco
The Eco Centre initially provides a £40 emergency pack, which includes £10 worth of both gas and electricity emergency credit top up for those on prepayment meters, and a variety of other emergency measures such as a blanket, an electric kettle, an oil filled radiator, a hot water bottle and more. The emergency pack intervention is then followed by a home visit from Luke, the Eco Centre’s manager, who is also a qualified EPC assessor. During his visit, Luke advises households on the most efficient energy use within their home and looks at possible behavioral changes, which could reduce the impact of fuel poverty. Apart from the advice, where necessary, Luke also install practical measures such as pipe lagging, energy saving light bulbs, draught proofing, an energy monitor, radiator reflective foil, hot water tank jackets or even referral for free cavity wall insulation to increase a property’s energy efficiency.
There are various reasons people find themselves in fuel poverty. Sometimes a human error could be the cause. Once such case was Mrs. N, who we visited on the day of our visit.
Mrs. N, had been wrongly billed £960 by her gas supplier. She tried to challenge her energy supplier about the excessive bill on several occasions, as she couldn’t understand how she could have consumed so much gas. However, although the supplier in question promised to carry out a gas meter check and to call her back, they never did. In the meantime she found out about Northfield Eco Centre and their Warm Homes Project, so she hoped that they could help her to get to the bottom of the excessive bill, which she could not afford to pay.
After her initial visit to the Eco Centre, Luke visited Mrs. N and instantly identified that her bill was excessive because the gas meter had been misread by her energy supplier. On this occasion he contacted the gas supplier on her behalf and was able to rectify the problem for her instantly. As a result Mrs. N was refunded £960 by her energy supplier and is now able to heat her home without the fear of running up an excessive bill.
Apart from helping Mrs. N with her excessive energy bill, Luke also provided her with energy savings advice and demonstrated how to use her central heating system efficiently. She is now fuel debt free and her house is comfortably warm.
We were pleased to see that Northfield Eco Centre does a great job in identifying the fuel poor and fighting fuel poverty and that The Ebico Trust funding is reaching the right people in the Northfield community. We are certain that they will keep up the good work throughout the project life.