Tuesday 17 March 2015

Residents struggling to heat their homes will be supported through new funding announced by Sheffield City Council.

The funding will be used to tackle fuel poverty, with advice and support provided to vulnerable residents to help them lower their energy bills. Families with young children, the elderly, adults living alone and others on very low incomes will all be targeted under the scheme.

Sheffield City Council will provide an additional £163,000 to fund advice services and work to link them with people most in need. This is in addition to the extra £300,000 it pledged in December to tackle food poverty. Work in both areas will be closely linked so people can receive help about food and fuel at the same time.

An estimated 34,000 households out of 230,000 in Sheffield are living in fuel poverty. This means people are often forced to make decisions around heating and food on a daily or weekly basis, sometimes sacrificing food to keep their home warm or vice versa.

It is estimated that illness related to fuel poverty costs the NHS in excess of £1 billion per year.

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health, said: “We know that some of the poorest people in the city are being hardest hit by increasing living costs, high fuel bills and the impact of the Government’s welfare reforms. We also know that living in fuel or food poverty can have a massive impact on people’s health and well-being.

“It’s tragic that in this day and age people are having to choose between keeping their home warm or putting food on the table. We want to help people in the long term which is why we’re funding advice to help tackle the root causes of the problem.”

The extra funding to tackle fuel poverty will be used to provide advice and support to around 1,000 people and groups. £105,000 will be used by South Yorkshire Energy Centre who will help people reduce their fuel bills and energy use.

Shelly McDonald, Manager of South Yorkshire Energy Centre, said: “We provide people with really practical advice and support to help them get their energy bills down and make them more affordable. This includes things like helping people understand energy bills and meter readings, installing draught excluders, letterbox covers, radiator foil, energy efficient light bulbs and portable radiators for households with broken down heating systems. We can also sign post people to additional support and grants to help them resolve debt issues.

“Small changes at home can make a huge difference to people’s bills and well-being. We want to help as many people as we can with this.”

The £463,000 funding to tackle fuel and food poverty will be used for the following:

• Emergency food relief grant pot (£60,000) – To support the sustainability of food banks and fund innovations that will allow food banks to provide broader support to people.
• Advice to food bank beneficiaries (£180,000) – To fund a project that will provide advice to food bank users, as well as extra training and support to food bank volunteers so they can better sign-post people to help and identify those in need of advice services. Sheffield Citizens Advice to be funded to set up project.
• Establish a base level supply for food banks (£30,000).
• Additional support for homeless people during the winter months (£30,000). The Archer Project to be funded to deliver this work.
• Community Wellbeing work to link the most vulnerable people with the advice services, South Yorkshire Energy Advice Centre and other activities/support available through the Community Wellbeing programme (£53,000).
• Advice to vulnerable residents on reducing energy use and costs (£105,000). South Yorkshire Energy Centre to be funded to undertake this work.
• Remaining funding (£5,000) to accommodate additional referrals where people need more detailed support about debt and welfare rights in order to address poverty issues.