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New service helps thousands to stay warm this winter

Thousands of struggling households have saved money on their fuel payments, thanks to a new partnership between UK Power Networks and Citizens Advice.

From Press releases - 15 February 2017 12:00 AM

This winter the electricity firm’s You and Your Home referral service has supported more than 7,000 households in the East, South East and London, with many saving hundreds of pounds and almost 500 of these have also been referred to the charity for detailed advice.

One elderly couple who were struggling with increasing energy bills and fallen into significant debt, saved £13,000 through the support of the free service. With the husband caring for his virtually-housebound wife, an independent advisor was able to arrange specialist appointments to apply for a Debt Relief Order and benefits. The advisor also helped the couple to switch energy supplier and apply for the Government’s Warm Homes Discount.

This week marks national Fuel Poverty Awareness Day (17 February), which highlights the problems faced by four million UK households struggling to keep warm in their homes. A fuel poor household needs to spend more than 10% of its income on all fuel use and to heat its home to an adequate standard of warmth (21°C in the living room and 18°C in other occupied rooms). The number of households in fuel poverty in England is estimated to be between 2 and 2.4 million, representing over 10% of all English households. 78% of households in fuel poverty are also classed as ‘vulnerable’ because they include children, the elderly, or someone with a long-term illness or disability.

UK Power Networks, which owns the local power lines delivering electricity to homes and businesses regardless of who customers pay their energy bills to, says the partnership is not just about saving money and energy, it is about improving customers’ quality of life.

Kerry Potter, priority services manager said: “Our partnership with Citizens Advice has had such a positive impact on our customers’ health and wellbeing, by helping those who are struggling to stay warm over winter. 

“As well as energy-saving advice, the experienced advisors can help with switching supplier to secure a cheaper deal, and applying for grants and benefits customers may be entitled to. If each household made just one of our 11 energy saving tips they would save on average £45 per year, and the potential savings are significantly more.”

The You and Your Home service kicks in when UK Power Networks employees hear from customers that they are worried about paying their fuel bills. They are provided with energy-saving information and offered a referral to Citizens Advice specialist energy advisor - who provides guidance by phone, and links them with a local office if face-to-face or home support is preferred.

Nicky Willshere, manager of Citizens Advice Ipswich who oversees the service, said the charity had received over 1,000 referrals locally. She said: “We are experts in helping people and unravelling their issues, and we have had some amazing results which have made a real difference to people’s lives.

“One man hadn’t used his gas for four years, because he couldn’t afford to pay. It turned out a debt had been put on his meter which should have been paid by his landlord. Once we had helped find the cause of the problem, he could use his gas again.”

UK Power Networks delivers electricity supplies to 8.1million homes and businesses across the East, London and South East. It also runs a free Priority Services Register designed to help people who rely on power for medical needs, or may need extra assistance for other reasons such as having a young child or a frail elderly relative at home during a power cut.

The company also runs information events in shopping centres, cafes and mosques, visits homes with fire services, and partners with various charities who help spread the word about the register.

5 ways to save £s

• Switch your supplier, or talk to your current supplier about your tariff
• Bleeding radiators can save you up to £25 per radiator per year
• Make sure you set the timer and thermostat on your central heating system. If it is very cold, set the timer switch to heat on earlier rather than turning the thermostat up to warm the house quickly
• Kettle boiling by only boiling the amount of water you need
• A full washing machine is more economical than a half wash and where you can, use the economy programme