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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]130 Renfrewshire families will each save £273 a year on their energy bills every year, thanks to a new council service to tackle fuel poverty.

On top of the annual savings worth £33,000 across all the families combined, the service has also generated one-off savings of around £4,683 – including a £3,500 grant for new heating and insulation for one home.

Energy Advice Renfrewshire was set up in September 2014 to offer dedicated energy support to local people hit by benefit changes and also to hard-pressed residents struggling to cope with the spiralling cost of living.

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Councillor Mike Holmes, Depute Council Leader said: “Renfrewshire families are losing out as a result of the UK Government’s benefit cuts, plus there are many residents struggling to cope with spiralling cost of living. So we need to do all we can to support hard-pressed households.

“Energy costs are a big part of any home’s expenses, and it’s a sad and harsh reality that some families often choose between buying food and heating their home because they have been pushed to the brink.

“Over the past three months, Energy Advice Renfrewshire has helped 130 households gain significant savings. Our two advocates have generated an annual energy bill saving of £33,000 across all the families supported – that’s an average of £273 for each household saved every year.

“I am pleased that by setting up a dedicated fuel advocacy service, we’ve been able to alleviate some local hardship by offering face-to-face support to residents who need it the most as we continue to try and break the fuel poverty cycle.”

Louise Fraser, 27 from Ferguslie was helped by the project. She said: “I can’t thank the adviser who worked with me enough. Being a mum of three, I don’t have time to spend on the phone, in a queue to try and speak to the energy companies – plus that costs money. I didn’t know what the Warm Home Discount was or that I was entitled to it. The adviser called my energy company for me. He was able to get me the Warm Home Discount and also switched me onto a better tariff – saving me a total of £180 on my energy bills every year. This is a huge help to me and my family.”

Residents are referred to the service from council services like social work, advice works, housing; from Home Energy Scotland; and from third sector organisations. One of the team’s advocates also works within the council’s Families First teams in Ferguslie and Linwood.

The Council secured £72,000 from the Scottish Government’s Welfare Reform Resilience Fund to set up the service.

As part of the project, more than 250 front-line council staff are also being given energy efficiency and fuel poverty training to make sure they are equipped to advise and signpost local residents.

Case studies:

1) A lady who lives alone and struggled to afford to heat her home was referred to the team by Advice Works. She had a ‘back boiler’ – popular in the 1970s and not very efficient. She qualified for the Government’s Energy Assistance Package for a new heating system and insulation upgrades worth a combined £3,500. The efficiency savings that will come from these improvements are £330 a year. She also qualified for the Warm Home Discount – taking the annual saving up to £470 on top of the £3,500 for heating and insulation.

2) A mum who lives with her partner and 4 children was referred to the team. Both adults have learning difficulties. The adviser gave energy saving advice, contacted the supplier to give meter readings, moved the family to a cheaper tariff, and applied for the Warm Home Discount – all saving £296 a year.

3) A mum of three who has mental health issues was put in touch with an adviser in September via Families First. She’d moved into her home in March, didn’t know who the supplier was and had made no payments. They contacted the supplier to have an account set up and got agreement that she could pay her debt and her on-going costs through the Fuel Direct Scheme (where money goes from your benefit to your energy suppler). There was also a successful application to the Warm Home Discount of £140 per year.

For more: Lisa McIntyre, Senior Communications Officer, 0141 618 7395[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]