Please donate to the 2020 Winter Warmth appeal and share a little warmth this winter

Devon has a high level of fuel poverty. <span>Photo by <a href="">Dominik Kuhn</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a></span>

Devon has a high level of fuel poverty. Photo by Dominik Kuhn on Unsplash

Healthy Homes for Wellbeing, run by Exeter Community Energy (ECOE), needs you to help us help clients like an 85-year-old man whose lack of heating recently nearly made him homeless. He was just one of many people in Devon at risk of or in fuel poverty. We hope you will help others like him by donating to the Healthy Homes Hardship Fund at this link.

The 85-year-old client lived in a park home in Torbay, Devon. He had just left hospital and found his boiler was broken. This initially seemed an easy problem to fix, explained Tara Bowers, project manager for ECOE’s Healthy Homes for Wellbeing scheme. It seemed an obvious case for funding from the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. But this time there was a hitch.

When options run out

‘The problem is that because he’s in a park home, he’s on bottled gas,’ said Tara. For local emergency boiler schemes, eligibility is only open to mains gas boilers. ‘There’s absolutely no ECO funding at all to help him,’ said Tara. The Torbay council also doesn’t work with other funding schemes that the Healthy Homes for Wellbeing project might call on in such a case. ‘So this poor old gentleman is living on income support,’ Tara recalls. ‘He suddenly comes home to a cold home and has no money to replace the boiler, which has basically been condemned, and we can’t access any of our usual sources of help. So I sat just thought, what do we do? We can’t afford to pay for his boiler. I don’t know how the hell we’re going to get this sorted.’

Last year we received £4,000 of Winter Warmth donations to help people in situations like this, and have now opened our Winter Warmth campaign for 2020. We are asking for donations of Winter Fuel payments from people who don’t need it into the Healthy Homes Hardship Fund, to help people when other funds can’t. We also welcome any other contributions.

Funds don’t always flow where they’re needed

Fortunately in the case of the 85-year-old man in Torbay, after talking to one of ECOE’s trusted installers, Tara found a friendly engineer with capacity to help. She also used her contacts within the Cosy Devon network to reach a senior manager at Torbay Council. Tara explained that this man would be homeless unless his boiler was repaired, as his home would not be fit for habitation. The manager therefore agreed to use a crisis fund to pay for a new boiler. It’s going to sort itself out,’ Tara says. ‘But in the meantime, this poor old man is sat in a cold home.’ And other cases often don’t qualify for such crisis funding.

This is just one of 353 households that Healthy Homes for Wellbeing has helped since setting up a more efficient recording system in late August. While each individual has their own important story, many involve simpler energy and money saving advice. We assume that these 353 households have saved £313,400.80, and we can account for instant or confirmed savings of £48,098.80. Such amazing results continue to attract funding from our partners, including £15,000 recently from Western Power Distribution. We have therefore been recruiting. Our two new advisers amongst the first to do the new online exam for the City and Guilds run by NEA. However we are unable to use these funds to directly help clients in the most need. That’s why we need further donations.

These are not headline stories in the daily news. But they are an important positive impact that fuel poverty projects like Healthy Homes for Wellbeing and the Winter Warmth campaign can have.