Opinions

Providing Support to Stay Warm and Well

Written by: Norman Kerr, Director, Energy Action Scotland

Published: 15/04/2015

An increasing number of people in Scotland are living in fuel poverty.

Every year more than 1 in 3 households across Scotland struggle to heat their homes.  Many of them worry about being able to afford to pay their home energy bills.  Often, they end up having to make stark choices such as turning on the heating or cooking a hot meal.

Known as fuel poverty, the problem particularly affects people who are on a low income and whose homes are poorly insulated and are therefore cold and damp.  Older people, families with young children and those with a disability or poor health are often most at risk.

The national charity Energy Action Scotland – which campaigns to end fuel poverty – has responded in light of recent increases in the number of fuel poor households. Over the last two winters, Energy Action Scotland has secured some private sector funding which has enabled it to deliver training to frontline staff.  The staff involved are responsible for looking after the health, wellbeing and social welfare of vulnerable clients.

The short awareness-raising courses, delivered free of charge, have aimed to enable a range of professional staff and support organisations to provide appropriate and effective information and advice.  This will result in clients who have cold homes and who struggle to afford energy bills being assisted to access all the support that is available to them.

There has been a huge response to the offer, with courses being held across the country.  Attendees have included family support officers, health visitors, carer community nurses and community occupational therapists.  The participating organisations have been diverse, but have included charities focusing on deafness, health and homelessness as well as – for example – Equally Well Dundee, Maggie’s Cancer Care and NHS Borders.

Very few of those coming on the courses were previously aware of the main fuel poverty programmes, which give grants and advice on topics such as how to insulate homes, how to get the best deal for energy and handling fuel debt.

Energy Action Scotland has also been in contact with the ALLIANCE Community Links Practitioners now working with some GP practices and will explore how best to support their work.

Energy Action Scotland will continue to highlight to government the need – and appetite – for this type of awareness-raising on an on-going basis.  It is essential that more people know what help is available to them.  It is also important that those working on the frontline with clients have information to hand on how they can best help those who are in need of assistance.

For information about what help is available to people in or at risk of fuel poverty or who are worried about keeping warm or about their fuel bills, contact the Scottish Government-funded Home Energy Scotland helpline on 0808 808 2282 or check out their website.

To find out about awareness training currently available from Energy Action Scotland, contact Training on 0141 226 3064 or email: training@eas.org.uk  Details about Energy Action Scotland’s work and information on fuel poverty can be found at www.eas.org.uk

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