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Innovative community programme helps Newcastle residents fight fuel poverty

ByDave Stopher

Sep 3, 2016

Households across Newcastle have been helped by an innovative community scheme to tackle fuel poverty, according to a new report published by British Gas and the charity National Energy Action (NEA).

The Community Action Partnership launched in 2014 as the first nationwide grass roots initiative to support people struggling to heat their homes, and to provide specialist training to front line workers enabling them to help people save energy and keep their homes warm.

The two-year project, led by British Gas and NEA, centred on eight locations across England and Wales, including Warm Up North, an association of nine councils across the North East, providing support where it was most needed. It involved local authorities, councils and other organisations such as NHS trusts, and Fire and Rescue Services.

Working with the Community Action Partnership, Warm up North has established a team of ‘Energy Agents’ to address fuel poverty and energy efficiency across the region. The Community Energy Agents gave local residents easy access to a wide range of energy information and services that would help them make informed choices about their energy needs.

As part of the initiative, almost 300 front line workers across the Warm up North area learnt how to identify people who faced difficulties in heating their home, and how to provide practical advice and support. The findings show that as a result of the training, almost all the workers are now able to incorporate fuel poverty and energy efficiency advice into their existing services.

The Community Action Partnership Impact Report estimates that the scheme will reach around a million people this year, rising to more than three million people by 2020, thanks to its innovative training programme and community advice sessions.

The report also highlights that more than 80% of people helped would use the information to save energy and keep warm, while 75% of people said they would be better able to control how much gas and electricity they use at home.

As part of the legacy of the Community Action Partnership, British Gas and NEA have launched a new online research hub offering advice and free downloadable starter kits to help organisations across the North East plan, develop and deliver their own community activities to help combat fuel poverty.

Maria Wardrobe, Director of External Affairs at the NEA said: “When we embarked on this programme with British Gas I don’t think we envisaged the immense impact it would have.  The key to its success is responding to the needs of individual communities, we know a one size fits all approach does not work. I hope other areas across the country find the resources we have developed helpful in replicating the success we have had to date. We look forward to continuing to work with British Gas to build on the legacy of the Partnership.”

Sarwjit Sambhi, Managing Director of UK Home at British Gas said, “Over the last two years we’ve worked in partnership with the NEA to help communities in need across Britain.

“Our community action partnership has made a real difference to the lives of low income households, and we’ve helped people to keep warm and save energy. Our work in communities means more local organisations are able to help people who are worried about heating their homes.

“We’re committed to supporting the communities we serve and to playing our part in the effort to address fuel poverty.”