In May we spent a day with the Your Home Newcastle (YHN) ‘Energy for the Future’ project and the team behind it, doing some home visits, helping those affected by fuel poverty.
It is estimated that as many as 30% of the Newcastle population are in fuel poverty and social housing tenants are particularly at risk. Tom, an employee of YHN, established the Energy for the Future project, to help tenants at risk of fuel poverty. The project provides tenants with tariff advice, information on how to reduce their fuel consumption, how to get the most from their heating system and appliances, and advice around condensation and water efficiency. Through the project, building checks focusing on thermal comfort and ventilation are carried out and
where appropriate practical measures are installed or supplied through an Energy Saver Pack.
One of the energy efficiency products provided by the project also has its own unique story. The draught excluders are made by Palatine Beds, a local bed and mattress factory owned by Newcastle City Council and managed by YHN. What is unique about this factory is that 70% of workforce has some form of disability and the draught excluders are manufactured from furniture off-cuts. In this way, Energy for the Future is not only providing support to those at risk of fuel poverty, but also supporting a local socially responsible manufacturing plant.
After we arrived in Newcastle, we met Tom and his team. During our initial briefing on the project, we discovered that tenants served by the project had their energy bills reduced between £11 and £20 per month. This is via the advice session and the energy saving measures. These are installed by David, who carries out the building checks and product fitting. As a result of this project, some tenants have also switched their energy supplier as they have found a cheaper deal elsewhere. After the initial meeting we were off, with Tom and David, to meet 3 tenants.
Our first stop was Michelle, who had recently moved into her property and found it very draughty, not very well insulated and generally cold. A new boiler and radiators had been recently installed, but she found that the property would heat up quickly but as soon as she turned the heating off, the heat would escape, leaving the property cooling very quickly.
Michelle had firstly received home energy efficiency advice. Then Dave inspected the house and fitted radiator reflectors, draught excluders and did the meter reading for Michelle. A visit with the repairs service has also been arranged to look at the draughts and other maintenance issues raised by Michelle.
After we said good bye to Michelle, we did a follow up visit to Irene who had benefited from the project previously. Irene is disabled and found her property to be very cold during the winter time. On a previous visit she had received home energy efficiency advice as well has had the practical measures installed, for example radiator reflectors. She could not have energy efficiency bulbs fitted due to problem with her eyesight, so was still using incandescent 100W bulbs. Since then, Dave has visited and fitted some LED bulbs giving equivalent light, which will help cut her energy bills.
Irene said that, since the first visit, her property is now much warmer and she has been able to turn her thermostat down, reducing her energy consumption and bills.
Finally, we visited Patricia, who had got into energy debt. She had no choice as her husband was ill and disabled and she had to keep her house warm for him at all times. Her husband sadly passed away last year and Patricia was left with a shortage of income while her debt remained.
Although her husband used to serve in the army and was entitled to an army service pension, which after his death would have been passed onto Patricia, he never claimed it. Therefore, after his death, Patricia was not entitled to it.
Due to her circumstances, Patricia found it difficult to cope emotionally and financially so she contacted YHN for help. The team visited Patricia shortly after she called, checked her energy bills and property for energy efficiency. They installed home energy efficiency measures and provided Patricia with advice and help to get manage her fuel debt.
Today Patricia is fuel debt free and she finds her property to be much warmer – even after turning her thermostat down. Her bills have also been reduced by over £20 a month.
Every person in fuel poverty has a unique circumstance and everyone has their own personal story. This is why The Ebico Trust funds local community projects like the Energy for the Future to be able to provide more personal fuel debt advice and apply practical home energy efficiency measures to those most affected by fuel poverty.