Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy's (WWCE) free energy advice service is to return for a second year, as studies show over three million people across the UK are now in debt to their energy suppliers. The Keeping Warm This Winter pop-up programme helped more than 360 Wiltshire residents last winter, prompting the group to expand the initiative as the energy crisis continues.
Developed by WWCE’s carbon reduction champion Jessica Thimbleby, Keeping Warm This Winter is a community engagement initiative designed to deliver targeted advice to people who may be struggling with fuel costs. The programme has been recognised by Community Energy England with a nomination for its national Fuel Poverty Action award and attracted the attention of local MP and Secretary of State, Michelle Donelan.
During pop-up ‘cafes’, Jessica will provide tips and advice around how to reduce household carbon emissions and save money by cutting down on energy use. She is also able to make referrals to the Warm and Safe Wiltshire service for further support, signposting those who may be eligible for emergency help or grants to allow them to install longer-term energy efficiency measures, including insulation or a more efficient boiler.
The first of this year’s pop-ups was held at Wesley Hall in Pewsey, providing over 30 people with support around their energy bills. Further sessions will be taking place throughout December and January at Hilmarton Church Hall and at Food Banks across the county, including Devizes, Cricklade, Malmesbury, and Bradford upon Avon.
Julian Barlow Chair of WWCE said, “As a community organisation, one of WWCE’s core objectives is to deliver local benefits so I am really pleased to be announcing the return of our free-to-access energy advice service. As well as being Chair of WWCE I am also Parish Councillor of a small Wiltshire village, so I know how challenging last winter was for local people and how concerned many are about the prospect of another difficult season. It’s a shame that this kind of scheme is necessary, but I’m incredibly grateful that WWCE is in a position to help those in need.”
Jessica added, “The feedback from the groups we partnered with and the residents who attended the sessions we ran last winter was overwhelmingly positive - it’s clear that the cafes really helped people who were struggling with spiraling energy bills. Sadly, the landscape has not improved going into winter 2023 and we’re seeing worrying statistics around the number of people in arrears already. The conversations I had at our opening session certainly suggest that Wiltshire residents are worried about how they’re going to cope this year, but I’m heartened by the fact that WWCE is playing a small part in helping them to cut costs and reduce their emissions in the process.”
Further to the Keeping Warm This Winter service, WWCE has once again teamed up with the Rural Communities Energy Support Network, run by the Centre for Sustainable Energy with Wessex Community Action to enable it to reach more people across Wiltshire.
If your heating system is broken and you can’t afford to repair or replace it, or if you’re worried about paying your heating bills, contact Warm and Safe Wiltshire on 0800 038 5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Citizens Advice (0808 223 1133) and Age UK Wiltshire (0808 196 2424) can also offer help and advice.
Financial help to install energy efficiency measures is available with eligibility for schemes often dependent on household circumstances and income, to prioritise low income households. The Wiltshire & Swindon Credit Union (01793 522216) or email@example.com, and Lendology, (01823 461099) or firstname.lastname@example.org may be able to help with affordable loans towards home improvements, including boiler replacement in Wiltshire.
The Keeping Warm This Winter service has joined the new Rural Communities Energy Support Network run by the Centre for Sustainable Energy with Wessex Community Action, to help community organisations support more people across Wiltshire with energy advice – contact email@example.com for more information.
National Debtline – www.nationaldebtline.org/ or call Freephone 0808 808 4000 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturday 9:30am to 1pm.
Step Change - online debt advice service www.stepchange.org/setting-expectations.aspx or speak to an advisor Tel: 0800 138 1111 Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm and Saturday 9am and 2pm.