Devon charity offering fuel poverty advice and support this winter

Fuel poverty Picture: Getty Images

Fuel poverty Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Last Friday (December 3) marked National Fuel Poverty Awareness Day and a Devon charity is issuing this advice for those struggling in East Devon this winter. 

Devon Communities Together (a national network of Rural Community Councils) has highlighted the invaluable work being done by a Devon based charity with its range of services to help anyone struggling with fuel poverty this winter. 

The charity National Energy Action, which is behind the National Fuel Poverty Awareness Day campaign, recently reported that inflation rose in October to its highest level in a decade, with the Office for National Statistics identifying increased household energy bills as a key driver to the rise in the cost of living. If further price rises happen as predicted, the cost of energy bills could be doubled for some people in just one year by April 2022.

A 2020 report from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy shows that every area in Devon has a minimum fuel poverty level of 8.1% of the population, with some areas in the county having a maximum of 12.1-14 per cent. A recent study found that there is often a link between isolated rural communities and fuel poverty, due to a higher risk of power cuts, poorer access to national infrastructures and low standards of insulation. 

With colder temperatures, the end of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and the pandemic there will be many people in Devon worried about how to keep their homes warm over the coming months. As well as debt and affordability factors, there are also many other consequences of a poorly heated home including physical and mental health issues. 

Devon Communities Together organise a series of workshops across Devon, as part of the national Big Energy Saving Network initiative from Citizens Advice. Nine events have already taken place, Martin Rich, Devon Communities Together’s Community Projects Adviser and Energy Champion, said: “We’d encourage anybody who would like to help people who are struggling in their area to get in touch. I can come along to coffee mornings or other pre-organised events, or I can work with you to arrange a standalone workshop. There will be people in your community who will really benefit from some extra information on how to manage their energy and we’re here to help. The sessions I’ve done so far have been really useful for people and we’ve even had some really positive discussions about greener energy sources, as well as reducing bills. 

Funded by Western Power Distribution, a new project called REACH will support people in the communities at risk of fuel poverty as well as those people who may not find it easy to access digital support. The team will be offering home visits, video calls and telephone support as well as practical help with dealing with energy suppliers and shopping around for the best deal.

“We understand the huge problems people can face in keeping their homes heated – particularly in rural communities – and want to help keep as many people warm this winter as we can,” added Martin. “As well as providing personalised help with energy bills, we will also be able to support people with related issues, such as housing and health challenges, by working with partner organisations to ensure that people receive the help they need. If you would like some one-to-one support or would like to find out more about REACH, please do get in touch.

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Discounted heating oil for rural homes

With a relatively high proportion of homes in Devon being ‘off-grid', many people are forced to rely on heating oil to keep their homes warm. Devon Oil Collective is an initiative from Devon Communities Together that helps members save money on their oil orders by taking advantage of bulk buying discounts, without the hassle of having to shop around. Membership of Devon Oil Collective is free and Devon Communities Together receives 1p per litre of oil ordered through the scheme which helps to fund its work in communities throughout Devon. For more information and to join, visit their website, or call 01392 248919.