The G-HEAT project was established in 2010 to offer independent energy-related advice to, in their homes on a face-to-face basis, to Glasgow householders, with particular focus on those households in fuel poverty. The project is run by the Wise Group, a social enterprise of over 30 years standing, which partners with a range of local authorities, public bodies and third sector organisations in Scotland and the North East of England, to deliver a range of social projects.
Phil Levermore visited the G-HEAT team in Glasgow in November. Following a welcome and introduction from Laurie Russell, CEO of the Wise Group, the G-HEAT team fronted by Willi Campbell briefed him on progress and the achievements of the team in tackling fuel poverty in Glasgow. Following the briefing, Phil accompanied Ronnie Neil, one of G-HEAT’s Energy Advisors, to the home of Mr & Mrs Geddes in the Shettleston area of Glasgow.
One of G-HEAT’s roles has been to help with Glasgow City Council’s initiative to fit Single Wall Insulation (SWI) to all its social housing which cannot receive cavity wall insulation. SWI, or external wall cladding, is considerably more intrusive to the householder than having a cavity wall injection-insulated, and so the Council’s tenants needed to be fully involved in a process of consultation – a process that G-HEAT arranged. Using Scottish Government funding, Glasgow City Council were also making SWI available to owner occupiers at a heavily subsidised price, and it was in visiting Mr & Mrs Geddes to explain how this would work, that Ronnie Neal discovered that they had other energy issues with which they needed help.
The Geddes’ had been used to paying their energy bills monthly using a Paypoint at their local shop, however Scottish Power, their supplier, had persuaded them to transfer to paying by Direct Debit. All had gone well for the first few months but then, unbeknown to them, Scottish Power stopped taking the Direct Debit payments in March. The debt was increasing. When he discovered what had been going on, Ronnie contacted Scottish Power and arranged to have the debt written-off and have the Direct Debit reinstated. The Direct Debit was set up again, but at a level which was higher than agreed, and Ronnie intervened again to get it reduced. “At G-HEAT, we always follow-up with our clients”, said Ronnie, “because we find, quite often, that clients’ problems seem to be resolved, but actually aren’t”. Meanwhile John, another member of the G-HEAT team, had reviewed the Geddes’ benefits position and succeeded in getting Mrs Geddes a carer’s allowance for Mr Geddes, who has MS. Mrs Geddes said, “The service we’ve had from Ronnie has been second to none. None of this would have happened without him. He’s become a friend, and we’re going to miss his visits.”