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Project Counter Attack

More than 800 households in the Borough of Blackpool have been helped out of fuel poverty in the first two years of a three-year project run by Blackpool Council Primary Care Affordable Warmth Partnership.

The Affordable Warmth Partnership, whose key partners include Blackpool Council and Blackpool Primary Care Trust, secured a grant of £90,000 from the ScottishPower Energy People Trust in 2006 – and set out to discover why vulnerable households in the area were not accessing benefits and grants that could help them achieve affordable warmth.

Following initial research, caseworkers began a mission to put right this situation by guiding people to the right sources of help.

Once a thriving seaside resort, Blackpool is now plagued by high levels of poor health, twice the national average of Incapacity Benefit claimants and is ranked 12th on the Index of Multiple Deprivation. In addition, much of the city’s housing, in both the public and private sectors, offers poor levels of thermal comfort.

Project Counter Attack targets vulnerable households on low incomes, including families with young children and older or disabled people with an existing illness that could be made worse by living in a cold or damp home.

A survey of 1,139 households visited by project workers found that 33% were unaware of some or all of the services and grants available to help them out of fuel poverty, while 22% were not eligible for a variety of reasons.

Project Counter Attack set up an outreach service, visiting people in their own homes to assess their needs. Nearly three-quarters of the households visited were referred to statutory, voluntary and community organisations for help, including to Warm Front for heating related grants and energy efficiency measures, Winter Warmth Campaign for emergency heating issues, Home Owner’s Advice for essential works grants and advice and to various council departments.

Many households needed more than one referral and, in total, 844 households benefited from 1,112 services, including £211,800 of thermal improvements to homes, £42, 024 of emergency remedial action to provide heating and hot water and £1,450 of crisis funding to help with heating costs.

In addition, second visits were made to 489 households to give benefits maximisation help and advice. This secured £1.25 million in additional income for vulnerable households, mainly elderly people, in the form of ill-health and low income benefits and allowances.

The project was publicised in GPs’ surgeries and SureStart children’s centres to ensure the target audience was reached.

Project Counter Attack has now produced a set of recommendations designed to overcome barriers to accessing help for people living in fuel poverty. Some recommendations will be implemented locally through the Blackpool Affordable Warmth Partnership. Others will be brought to the attention of government and campaigning third sector organisations, such as National Energy Action.

Expected Number of Individuals : 2000
Expected Number of Households : 2000
Trustees Meetings : 02/03/2006
Funding Amount Approved : 95000