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Rural Energy Project
With funding from the Rural Energy service we held an event at Kidderminster Town Hall. The event was to promote all aspects of health and well-being primarily to young families and was entitled “Starting Well” Although there were a high number of younger parents, there were also a number of grandparents in attendance too.
In all we saw 15 families and gave general advice about energy saving, how to switch energy supplier and schemes such as the Warm Home Discount rebate, which few people had heard of.
We used a display stand from the big energy saving week and leaflets too. In addition we had paper room thermometers which had been produced by the County Council Warmer Worcestershire initiative.
These are helpful particularly for people with young babies who are scared that the rooms will not be warm enough.
As part of the well-being side of the day we offered one to one advice on energy switching and different tariffs to show how much people could save. Four households took up the offer and we arranged appointments for them. We were able to show savings over £400 in once case
One lady had just been widowed and was determined to ensure that she was not paying more than she should for her bills and we looked at her current energy supplier and also changing to different tariffs. She also took away details on how to switch insurance and telephone suppliers. A conservative estimate would be a saving of £200 per year.
One couple were paying by pre-payment meter. As she is disabled and he is her career they were scared about getting into debt and worried that they would not be able to afford a quarterly bill. We did a comparison with a pre-payment meter quotation and could save over £200 per year. We then went on to discuss payment by monthly direct debit which they had no idea they could do and based on their consumption they could potentially save over £400 per year.
Using the Rural Energy Advice booklet we looked at the Priority Services register and explained how this could ensure that they would not be disconnected except in very extreme circumstances and that if they were registered then due to their vulnerability they could risk paying monthly by direct debit.
We also discussed the Warm Home discount scheme which they have never heard of although they would have been eligible. This could potentially save them £140 on their winter fuel bill. They left intending to ring their supplier to find out how much they could save and register for the Priority Services scheme.
We also helped two people not on mains gas and signposted one to her local oil club as she is pre paying for 1000 litres of heating oil at present in order to get the best price. At present the local oil club only offer an internet service to keep their costs down which is a barrier to older people but we are trying to find an alternate solution for her.
One man had recently negotiated a reduced price on his sky and broadband and had changed insurance company in order to get a better deal. He admitted that it had never occurred to him to look at his energy costs. As he is electricity only his fuel costs were quite high and we were able to offer savings of over £300 per year.
The leaflets and promotional materials produced by Citizens Advice are excellent and written in a clear and simple way. A number of these were taken by other people who were staffing stands at the event as well as the people that we met and so I am certain that the reach of the event goes much beyond the day itself.
The interesting part of the project for us has been the learning around pre conceived ideas and lack of clarity from the energy companies about the services and help that is available. This will certainly form part of future training and advice.