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Tackling fuel poverty has saved £1.25m in rural Shropshire

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HeatSavers was created in 2011 by Shropshire Council’s housing and public health teams, Age UK and Marches Energy Agency to tackle fuel poverty and mitigate the impact of fuel poverty on Shropshire residents’ quality of life.

  • Project: Shropshire HeatSavers
  • Objectives: To assist low income, vulnerable households with energy advice, heating and other appropriate solutions, delivering a positive impact on their health and housing needs
  • Timescale: 2012 – present
  • Cost to authority: £25,000 per year, plus £25,000 from local support and prevention fund - added value through partners’ investment
  • Number of staff working on project: 0.5 full-time equivalent
  • Outcomes: £1.25m savings to NHS and social care four years
  • Officer contact details: Les Poultney

Frontline workers from many partner organisations came together and worked to identify, target and engage with low-income, vulnerable households in fuel poverty that had inadequate or broken heating and insulation, and those living in cold homes that affected their health and wellbeing.

Les poultney

Les poultney

Les Poultney

Lgc awards 2016

Lgc awards 2016

This project was shortlisted for an LGC Award

These frontline workers refer details of people vulnerable to fuel poverty or living in cold homes to the HeatSavers central hub for a variety of services. Those services including signposting to Marches Energy Agency, a charity that helps people to find ways to keep their homes warm cheaply, and providing handyperson services, loft and wall insulation, emergency heating grants and emergency radiator fittings.

HeatSavers combats the negative impact of cold and damp homes on people in Shropshire, such as social isolation, depression, respiratory disease and even diet, where people are forced to choose between paying for food or fuel. We seek to help a wide range of clients, from helping older people to be warm enough to move around their homes to assisting young families in ensuring there is hot water to bathe their children. Our main focus was to help provide effective heating, particularly in cases where energy companies would not assist because properties did not have access to mains gas.

Shropshire is a large rural area in which thousands of properties are not connected to mains gas and have poor insulation. This, combined with an ageing population, made us realise there was a need for assistance beyond that which energy companies were willing to provide.

The scheme has continuously innovated and developed over four years, using a whole-system, customer-focused approach, utilising new technology such as infra-red panel heaters and collaborative working with WarmZones CIC, npower/Health Through Warmth, Scottish and Southern Electric, and our local partners.

With an investment of less than £250,000 on interventions to improve the heating of people’s homes over four years, HeatSavers has prevented £1.25m of spending on health and social care interventions that would otherwise been necessary to deal with the health and wellbeing impacts of cold, damp homes. Shropshire’s benefits team, through the local support and prevention fund, provides £25,000 to the scheme, as does npower, taking the total to £75,000. WamZones, the community interest company focusing on tackling fuel poverty, and energy provider SSE, also provide part of the funding.  

The impact to our clients on an individual level is real and far reaching, in many cases making massive leaps in people’s quality of life and eliminating major hazards in the home whilst also improving the housing stock.

Les Poultney, environmental health officer, Shropshire Council


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