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COMMUNITY FIRST HELPS RURAL PEOPLE ACCESS AFFORDABLE WARMTH

Hundreds helped thanks to ScottishPower Energy People Trust funding

For more than 35 years, Community First has been committed to providing strong support networks for the people of Worcestershire and Herefordshire. Over the past year, the charity has been using its position in the community to help households in the local area achieve affordable warmth.

In March 2012 Community First was awarded £50,000 from the ScottishPower Energy People Trust to fund the innovative, two-year long Rural Affordable Warmth Project and help vulnerable households in target areas increase household incomes and reduce outgoings. These target areas include 20 rural parishes in Worcestershire and an additional 10 in Warwickshire, supported by Warwickshire Rural Community Council.

The funding supports a project manager and two outreach workers who help local people by offering financial advice, sharing tips on how to lead a more energy efficient lifestyle and assisting them in accessing benefits and grants for home improvements such as insulation. The project is currently building up a strong reputation within the parishes and has already garnered the support of 5 local volunteers.

Together the team reaches out to households across rural Worcestershire and Warwickshire where residents often struggle to make ends meet and are particularly vulnerable to falling into fuel poverty due to rural cost of living, isolation, age, health issues, unemployment or the pressures supporting a young family.

One year in, the project has already helped a total of 547 local people through hosting lunch clubs, distributing information and scheduling home visits for those most in need. Key to reaching the most vulnerable people in the community is through linking up with local community groups such as the Rooftop Housing Group and Age UK to offer support to those who might otherwise fall through the net.

Janet*, who was helped by the project said: “Staff from Rural Affordable Warmth guided us through the ins and outs of accessing grants, which would have been impossible without help.  After years of struggle we now have access to financial benefits, support we desperately needed. We could not have done this on our own and most of all it has given us peace of mind.”

Mark Herriot, the project’s manager said: “Fuel poverty can be a big issue for people living in rural and harder to reach communities. We know that helping people obtain the benefits they are entitled to, and checking that they have the right energy saving measures can make a huge difference to their day to day lives and finances. The grant from the Energy People Trust has enabled us to establish trusting relationships with those most in need and establish ourselves as a significant support network within the local area.”

Ann Loughrey, Company Secretary and Trustee of the ScottishPower Energy People Trust, said: “Community First is already well-established in the area offering local people a range of services. Over the past year, thanks to funding from the ScottishPower Energy People Trust, they have been able to provide specialised energy efficiency and income maximisation advice to those who are vulnerable in the community and we are delighted to have supported the Rural Affordable Warmth project.”

To find out how you can access support and advice on affordable warmth please contact:

Sharon Dore, T: 07974 741915 / E: sharond@comfirst.org.uk (Worcestershire)
Alison Gregory, T: 01789 472617 / E: alisongregory@wrccrural.org.uk (Warwickshire)

About The ScottishPower Energy People Trust
The ScottishPower Energy People Trust funds registered charities that help people whose lives are affected by fuel poverty. Since forming in November 2005, the Trust has provided over £11.6 million to 244 projects across Britain, helping more than 1.5 million people. The Trust is funded by ScottishPower and voluntary donations from independent supporters.

Thursday, August 15, 2013