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Launch of Warmer Homes Stafford

Tom JonesTom Jones, Principal Officer for Health and Housing at Stafford Borough Council, introduces Warmer Homes Stafford, the new scheme to help local householders heat their homes more efficiently.

A new energy advice service for householders in Stafford Borough has been launched. Called Warmer Homes Stafford, it aims to help residents cut their fuel bills and to reduce the health risks of living in a cold home. The project is the result of a collaboration between Stafford Borough Council, Marches Energy Agency and Beat the Cold.

Cut fuel poverty and excess winter deaths

Speaking at a breakfast event on 17 January, the Council's Principal Officer for Health and Housing, Tomos Jones, described this latest initiative to tackle the twin problems of fuel poverty and excess winter deaths: "Stafford Borough suffers a relatively high rate of fuel poverty," he said, "largely due to the high proportion of rural properties that are off the gas grid. Hence, Warmer Homes Stafford wants to work with all sections of the community to address this problem. And by using local installers, this scheme will result in more local investment and jobs."

Targeting those in needWHS banner

A free telephone advice line offers expert advice: 0800 677 1785

The first step is to identify householders who can be helped, whether by improvements such as loft and cavity wall insulation, or a new boiler, or by switching to cheaper energy tariffs. Some of these may well be eligible for grant funding of various kinds, which is where specialist advice comes in. And locating these potential beneficiaries means reaching out into the community - to groups and organizations in towns and villages throughout the Borough, a point emphasized by Oliver Rothwell of Marches Energy Agency (MEA). He outlined how a dedicated advice line had already been set up, and that various promotional events were being planned, all with the aim of targeting areas of greatest need. More partners would be welcome, and could receive a referral fee for finding 'hot leads'.

Recent changes to the government's Green Deal energy efficiency loans scheme and the ECO insulation grants mean that the 'free for all' deals on standard cavity wall and loft insulation are set to return, but that the proposed ECO funding for solid wall insulation has been slashed, and that it was unlikely that anyone would receive more than 50% funding for this type of work. The complexity and fast-changing nature of these schemes highlights the need for MEA's expertise and good contacts with the energy companies who are obliged to fund much of this work.

Expert advice

A cold damp home can harm your health - especially if you are elderly or have a medical condition - hence the need for Warmer Homes Stafford. This was the message from Martin Chadwick, Chief Officer at Stoke-base charity Beat The Cold. A warmer drier home brings greater comfort, better physical and mental health, and fewer falls. This in turn means less pressure on the NHS, especially over the winter.

Advisors from Beat the Cold have many years of experience in dealing with all the issues surrounding home energy, health and fuel poverty. Martin related several recent case histories, including that of one elderly lady whose electric storage radiators had been wired incorrectly, so she was unable to benefit from the reduced night-time tariff. Beat the Cold had managed to get the problem sorted, and secured a £1000 rebate from the lady's energy company.

"People who phone the advice line will speak to one of our advisors, who can usually resolve the problem over the phone, including assessing eligibility for any financial help," said Martin. "If not, we can arrange for a home visit, usually within 3-4 working days."

How Beat the Cold can help you

Find the best energy deals

See if you qualify for a discount off your electric bill

Check your bills and negotiate with your energy company

Find free or discounted home insulation

Help you get a replacement or repair for your boiler (if eligible)

Advise on health problems arising from a cold home

FREEPHONE 0800 677 1785

WEBSITE: www.warmerhomesstafford.org.uk