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£50k Project Combats Fuel Poverty Leaving Residents Smiling

Vulnerable residents across the whole of England have been given something to SMILE about thanks to the ScottishPower Energy People Trust.

In June2007, Newcastle-based National Energy Action (NEA) was granted over £50,000, from the Trust to fund Supporting More Independent Lives Everywhere (SMILE) and has more than delivered its aim of helping to combat fuel poverty.

The grant was given to the project to deliver a two-year initiative, which had two elements – to deliver a training programme to SureStart staff, their partner agencies, parents and grandparents and to administer a hardship fund for vulnerable low-income families, who are not entitled to standard government grants.

The ScottishPower Energy People Trust was established in November 2005 to fund not-for-profit organisations that help vulnerable people including families, young people, the disabled and the elderly who need to spend more than 10% of their income on energy bills.

Ann Loughrey, ScottishPower’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and The ScottishPower Energy People Trust’s Company Secretary said:

“We’re so proud of the results delivered by the team working on the SMILE project and are confident that the advice given during the training programme will continue to benefit others. 

“Fuel poverty now affects millions of households across Britain so any assistance we can provide through our Trust is essential today, especially in the current cold, wintry months.

“Independent research, which was carried out before we set up the Trust, proved that the best method of assisting those in fuel poverty was to empower professionals, like the SureStart team, to recognise and assist those in need of our funding.”

The funding has enabled the SMILE project to deliver 40 training sessions, which were aimed at staff from initiatives like SureStart, as well as others who work alongside families with young children, highlighting how to recognise the link between clients'''' poor health and cold damp homes as well as how to communicate energy efficiency issues effectively and particularly to highlight grants and schemes available to help.

SureStart is a government initiative that aims to achieve better outcomes for children, parents and communities in England.

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Denise Howell, Training & Partnership Development Manager at NEA, said:

“We’re really pleased with the outcome of the SMILE project. We were delighted when the ScottishPower Energy People Trust granted the funding as it allowed us to continue the training courses, which were previously assisted financially for the first three years by the government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change.

“Our training courses were so popular and because of the demand, we completed our target of delivering 40 courses earlier than expected, in October.

“We had excellent feedback from those participating in the training and since we started the training courses, we have been able to assist approximately 15,000 households, which is fantastic. Even simply understanding the causes and effects of fuel poverty is a starting stone and will allow these workers to identify those in need of assistance.”

The funding is also being used to administer a hardship fund for vulnerable and low-income families who are not entitled to standard government grants. Although the SMILE project is due to finish at the end of December, allocations of the hardship fund will continue into 2009 after referrals from SureStart workers are considered.

Denise continued:

“The hardship fund has already provided £6,000 worth of crisis funding to those in need and grants are awarded to low-income families who are not eligible for Warm Front or EEC Grants. It’s used to assist with small debts, energy saving measures and household appliances.

“Some of our clients suffer from violent abuse and are forced to flee homes with their young kids, leaving them penniless and in need of assistance. We are able to provide help, through referrals from SureStart staff, and make a significant difference to the lives of these people. “

So far, the ScottishPower Energy People Trust has awarded over £4.5m to 103 projects helping over 245,000 individuals in over 105,000 households throughout Britain.

For information on The ScottishPower Energy People Trust visit www.energypeopletrust.co.uk.

Thursday, November 06, 2008