Fighting Fuel Poverty – Stories from the Frontlines
05 July 2017
By Hayley Carmichael
Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-op can help you manage your household fuel bills. We asked Dan Curtis, Customer Services & Marketing Co-ordinator to share more…
Making a real difference
In a first-floor flat on the outskirts of Brighton, John (not his real name) lives alone supported by a modest disability allowance and handouts from a local foodbank, where BHESCo first made contact with him.
One of the foodbank volunteers suggested we speak to John, as he’d not had heating in his home 3 years.
When asked why this was, he said that he was angry at paying a £100 ‘Standing Charge’ every year for gas that he’d not even used. Consequently, he requested his gas supply to be capped and cut-off, meaning he had no hot water in the property. He washed using water boiled in the kettle, and used an expensive halogen heater for warmth.
This meant John could only afford to heat one room in his flat, and so slept in a sleeping bag in the lounge during winter. When I first met him, he was despondent and defeated by the ordeal.
I explained that there were some energy tariffs available that had no standing charge, meaning you only pay for what you use. It took some persuading, but with persistence, eventually John agreed to give it a go. We arranged for his gas to be reconnected and we switched his energy supply to a company that levied no standing charge.
The next time I saw John and asked how he was, he had a big smile on his face, recounting how wonderful it had been to have a hot bath again, and how it felt much warmer in his flat. He said he felt like he had more control over his life and was extremely grateful for the help he’d received.
Help when help is needed
Across town, Vera (not her real name) lives with her two young children, supported by a part time job and child tax credit. Last year, her boiler broke down and she couldn’t afford to replace it, leaving her home with no hot water and no heating. She suffers from MS, made worse by the cold, and was becoming extremely stressed and depressed.
In desperation, Vera went to Money Advice Plus who referred her to BHESCo. Given her illness and circumstances, we felt she could qualify for a free boiler through Npower’s ‘Health Through Warmth’ scheme. We submitted an application on Vera’s behalf and were delighted when her request was accepted. She got a brand new boiler installed free of charge which has made a world of difference to her comfort, happiness and wellbeing.
As an added bonus, BHESCo also helped Vera to qualify for the ‘Warm Home Discount’, which pays £140 towards her winter fuel bill. Finally, we switched her to a cheaper energy tariff, saving another £150 on her annual energy bill.
Interventions such as these make an enormous difference to the lives of people like Vera and John, and BHESCo are humbled and proud to have been there to support them when they needed us.
We need more healthier, warmer homes
These are only two stories out of the 15,000 households in Brighton & Hove that are living in fuel poverty. A combination of poor insulation and expensive energy tariffs means thousands of people are left struggling to heat their homes in winter.
Living in a cold home increases the risks to your physical and mental health and impacts on your overall wellbeing.
It is vital to do what we can to keep our homes warm over winter. Some simple solutions include:
- Switching tariff to a cheaper supplier (savings average up to £300 a year),
- Adding affordable insulation, like draught excluders and window glazing,
- Receiving the benefits you’re entitled to (like the Warm Home Discount).
Keeping your home warm means fewer visits to your doctor’s surgery, which is good for you and good for the NHS.
As a not-for-profit community co-operative, BHESCo helps our neighbours in Brighton & Hove to stay warm and well all year around, putting care into the energy industry.
Anyone needing advice about bills, heating, and energy benefits should give us a call today. And that goes for your friends and family too, so tell them we’re here.
We look forward to speaking to you soon.
Contact BHESCo on 01273 766671 or Freephone 0800 9996671