Since November, Good Company has been trying out a different approach to helping people through the cost-of-living crisis. Instead of giving out one-off energy vouchers, we have partnered with Citizens Advice Epsom & Ewell and our local MP, Chris Grayling, to offer clients a longer-term solution to fuel poverty.
It all started with hearing stories about people who were too scared to turn on their heating or were spending more and more time in their bedroom, because it was the only place they could stay warm. Other clients with health conditions told us they have to heat their homes properly and are now thousands of pounds in debt with their energy supplier.
Good Company decided to launch the Epsom & Ewell Energy Support Scheme, which offers a generous package of support to those who are struggling with their energy bills. So far, we’ve run 14 workshops in Epsom, Leatherhead and Tadworth, benefiting nearly 200 households. Participants get expert energy advice, free energy saving appliances, and a gas or electricity top-up to relieve some of the immediate financial pressure. Local residents who could afford it were invited to donate all or part of their £400 support payment to help fund this programme.
The response has been amazing! Good Company has already distributed 127 air fryers, 60 electric airers, 441 hooded blankets and more than 650 energy-efficient light bulbs. Feedback from participants has been really positive, too – almost everyone gave the workshops 9 or 10 out of 10. And follow-up meetings show that clients are taking on board the energy advice, by changing their behaviours to save energy.
One person who used to have the heating on all day is now setting it to come on for just a few hours in the morning and evening. She is also using her new air fryer nearly every day, which costs about half as much as the oven.
Another participant said that her children put on their hooded blankets as soon as they come home from school, so they can turn down the thermostat. This family used to have draughty windows and a broken shower (which meant they were having more baths), but this has been resolved after we helped the client to write to her housing association.
Someone else said she is now using her smart meter to monitor the family’s use of energy more carefully and has identified the electric shower as a major consumer of energy. She feels more in control and less stressed about her energy bills. She also loves her air fryer!
Furthermore, everyone has appreciated the opportunity to share their experiences and energy saving tips with each other – reassured to know they are not the only ones who are struggling.
Overall, the Energy Support Scheme has made a significant impact in the community, offering a lifeline to those in the greatest need. Thank you to all our supporters who have helped make this scheme a success. Your donations have made a real difference in people’s lives.
This blog was written by Tom Sefton (Poverty Lead)