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Unable to provide advice in face-to-face settings as in pre Covid days, Energise Sussex Coast and Hastings Advice & Representation will do it by telephone, email and online means in their new joint project.

Fuel poverty and energy debt advice available for households hit by Covid

Much needed advice for local households in fuel poverty and energy debt as a result of the Covid pandemic is now available thanks to a grant from British Gas Energy Trust to Hastings Advice & Representation Centre and Energise South Coast. Nick Terdre reports.

The grant, worth a total of some £40,000, has made possible the creation of the Welfare, Benefits & Energy Advice project by Hastings Advice & Representation Centre (Harc) and Energise Sussex Coast (ESC). At a time when many households are facing the multiple challenges caused by Covid-19, the cold winter weather and financial hardships accruing from the pandemic, the two advisory bodies will work in tandem to make local residents aware of benefits for which they are eligible and other sources of help to avoid falling into energy debt while keeping themselves warm. Already under way, the project will run until summer 2021.                                                                                                  

 “Along with many people in our sector, we have been extremely worried about this coming winter and the additional issues people face caused by the Covid pandemic,” Harc chief executive Jacky Everard and ESC project manager Kate Meakin told HOT.

“It may be residents facing a reduced income as they have lost their job or are not able to work, people who are ill or recovering from Covid-19, others having to spend more time at home and needing to keep the heating on more.

“The British Gas Energy Trust fund will enable us to help people when they need it most. We will be able to support people to maximise their income by giving advice on welfare benefits, budgeting and energy, enabling them to save money on their bills and make their homes more affordable to heat this winter.”

12% of Hastings residents in fuel poverty

An estimated 12% of Hastings residents live in fuel poverty, Meakin said. While the BGET grant is aimed at work with Hastings residents, thanks to additional funding from the government’s Big Energy Saving Network, ESC and Harc’s service will also be available to residents of Rother and Rye.

In a typical year Harc provides free confidential advice, information and representation to over 14,000 people, securing over £4m in unclaimed, enhanced and reinstated benefits.

“If you would like Harc to undertake a full welfare benefits check to ensure that you are receiving all of the benefits you are entitled to, or you are struggling to pay fuel bills, then please contact us as outlined below,” Everard said.

ESC, a community energy cooperative, has been providing energy advice to local residents since 2012, helping them save both money and energy. It is also active in promoting and implementing community solar power projects.

Covid Response Fund

The grants to ESC and Harc are part of financial support provided by BGET to energy and money consumer advice charities in nine regions of the country from its £800,000 Covid Response Fund.

“It’s been crucial to ensure frontline money and energy advice organisations receive additional funding to support their work this autumn, as the longer-term effects of the pandemic, and winter fuel costs, begin to take hold,” said Helen Charlton, the BGET chair.

“Many vulnerable households are facing a financial precipice. These new grants will ensure additional money and energy advice is available to support individuals and families in some of the worse-hit areas”

Hastings was identified by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) as one of the areas most impacted by Covid and having the highest levels of unmet resource for providing fuel poverty and energy debt advice to its local communities.

 

If you are in financial difficulty or unable to pay fuel bills because of the Covid pandemic, Harc and ESC can help. For benefit and budgeting advice contact Andrea at Harc on 07923 236782 or by email (andrea@harcuk.com), and for energy advice Kate at ESC on 01424 390 062 or by email (kate@energisesussexcoast.co.uk).

 

Posted 19:17 Thursday, Oct 22, 2020 In: Campaigns

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