Warmer Improved Somerset Homes (WISH) helps older people and families with young children who are struggling to pay their energy bills.
WISH has been helping older people in Somerset since 2006. WISH’s second incarnation, from 2010-2013, helped more than 11,500 people.
This time, though, it’s not just older people who will benefit. The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) has now won funding from the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities programme to run WISH for another three years, across Somerset’s five local authority areas.
They are also expanding the reach of the programme to include all Somerset residents regardless of age or housing type. CSE particularly wants to offer help to households with young children, since children and the elderly are most at risk of illness as a result of living in a cold home.
Paying the bills and staying warm and healthy at home is a huge issue for many Somerset residents. In rural areas, many houses are old with solid walls that are hard to insulate, such as old stone buildings.
A lot of these homes are off the gas grid, meaning they have to be heated with more expensive oil or electricity – fuel bills are going up particularly fast for these households.
There’s a high proportion of older people, who suffer the effects of living in cold or damp homes, and CSE have also found a low level of understanding about energy use and costs among low-income households in this area.
This new phase of WISH aims to tackle all these issues. CSE wants people in fuel poverty or fuel debt to have a better quality of life as a result of improved access to good quality energy advice and energy efficiency improvements. And they want to see the community working together to tackle cold homes.
What WISH offers
Over the next three years, WISH aims to provide an integrated energy advice service, including:
- Helping people understand how to better manage their energy use
- Information about energy efficiency improvements
- Advice on dealing with fuel debt
- Checking that households are claiming the benefits they’re entitled to
Over the next three years, CSE aims to maintain the fuel poverty advice service across the County of Somerset, identifying and supporting householders in rural areas who live in cold, damp homes or who struggle to pay their energy bills.
They will be offering these people advice on how to manage their energy use and reduce their fuel bills, as well as letting them know about any available grants for insulation or heating system improvements.
The project will also provide training to health and social care professionals, equipping them to understand the energy-related needs of all households, identify clients who are in fuel poverty, and refer them to the fuel poverty advice service. By doing this, CSE aims to provide advice and support to 2,000 households.
Living in a cold or damp home makes the vast majority of illnesses worse, especially respiratory and cardio-vascular conditions. As a result of receiving help from WISH, we want to see people in rural, isolated areas of Somerset reporting warmer and less damp homes, and a consequent improvement in their health.
Living in fuel poverty is a stressful situation for many people, with the anxiety of receiving unaffordable bills, getting into debt, or becoming socially isolated. The experience can have a significant impact on mental health.
Along with money-saving energy advice, WISH offers help with applying for all the benefits that each person is entitled to, helping to relieve a little of the strain on the household budget, and decrease stress and anxiety.
For this phase of WISH, CSE are working in partnership with Community Council for Somerset and Somerset Care & Repair, as well as a range of local agencies and organisations.
WISH will also be working with local community groups and volunteers who will provide home energy advice alongside the WISH team.
WISH covers Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset, Taunton Deane and West Somerset.
If you know any Somerset residents who would benefit from a short talk with a friendly advisor, or a longer home visit to talk about any of these issues, please contact CSE’s Home Energy Team free:
Telephone 0800 082 2234 (free!)
Email [email protected]