Newcastle City Council uses house-to-house visits and co-operation with utility companies to help local residents escape severe fuel poverty.
Last year the council made 162 home visits to its tenants, to check if households were on the right energy tariffs and to see if they could save money by choosing a single company for their gas and electricity or by paying via direct debit.
“We go out and visit people proactively, by knocking on doors. It can take several visits to each property,” says energy officer Kate Coulthard.
“We also check to see if people’s bills are correct. Last year we discovered hundreds of people whose daytime and night electricity rates were the wrong way round; we turned their debts into credit.”
Newcastle CC's tenants comprise only one quarter of the city’s rented housing stock, so now the council is doing mailings elsewhere to spread the benefits of its work to other tenants. Utility companies are also checking that customers are on the right tariffs.
Like other councils, Newcastle also helps households maximise their incomes and last year the council and its partners secured£12.3m for people on benefits.
There are two other advantages for the city’s residents.
First, the local energy efficiency initiative, Newcastle Warm Zone can be more generous than help available from utility companies and the national Warm Front initiative. It provides free, non-means tested improvements to home insulation to anyone over 60, and discounted help for those under 60.
Second, Warm Zone and another initiative, Health Through Warmth , are run from the same council office rather than by different organisations. Last year Warm Zone conducted 19,650 household assessments while Health Through Warmth helped 640 individuals.
“It makes the cross-referral of clients very easy,” says Ms Coulthard. “If someone has inadequate heating, we can see if their health would enable them to qualify for Health Through Warmth.”
She adds that residents are “very distressed” by the recent fuel price increases. But the council is looking to increase the help it provides to see if it can make home visits and provide more help to non-council tenants, and to help households with solid walls where cavity insulation is not an option.
Newcastle City Council Kate Coulthard, energy officer.
Tel: 0191 211 5973 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org