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Teignbridge welcomes funding boost to lift vulnerable people out of fuel poverty

Some of the most vulnerable and in need residents are set to benefit from valuable support to make their homes warmer and cheaper to heat after Teignbridge District Council secured a £55,000 Government grant.

The Council's bid to help lift those out of fuel poverty has been given a major boost with the funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change's Fuel Poverty Fund (DECC).

The money - aimed at those living in more rural areas and park home residents - will play a crucial role in allowing the Council to offer new ways of helping to make sure the homes are well insulated and as energy efficient as possible so fuel costs are reduced.

The Council currently provides capital funding for loft and cavity wall insulation, heating and external wall insulation for park homes.

The £55,000 will complement what was already on offer with additional measures to help heat the homes of those people who are most in need. They include heating controls, floor insulation, replacement heating, cylinder jackets, pipe lagging, secondary glazing and draught proofing.

Practical advice will also be on offer including promoting long-term behavioural changes such as shopping around suppliers of the best tariff or joining a collective oil buying scheme.

Help will be provided to those who are in receipt of a means tested benefit or long term disability benefit, or are aged 70 or over or have a children under six years old and are in fuel poverty. People who qualify for assistance will be able to apply for a loan or grant assistance, subject to the cost of works.

The funding comes after surveys of both park homes residents and residents in rural areas found that, in Teignbridge, there are almost 9,000 people (16.3%) considered to be living in fuel poverty, rising to 26% in rural areas.

A Rural Housing Survey conducted in 2011 found that 26% of residents were in fuel poverty with 43% of those fuel-poor homes occupied by people aged 70 and over. Many households had boilers that were over 10 years old and some did not have any kind of heating controls or draft proofing.

Teignbridge has more park homes than the whole of Devon put together with 1,154 residents living in 46 sites across the district. It has a lot of experience in assisting people improve the insulation of their park home.

A 2012 Park Home Survey found that 58% of residents do not have their home fully insulated, over 65% use fuel other than gas to heat their home and 81% don't have a room thermostat. The majority of residents - 93% - are over 65 with 71% living on an income of less than £15,000 and 59% are in receipt of Council Tax Benefit.

Cllr Philip Vogel, Teignbridge District Council's Executive Spokesperson for Housing and Planning, said:

"We are absolutely thrilled our funding bid was successful. This money will go a long way in helping those people who are most in need and the positive knock-on effects are huge.

"The fuel poverty figures speak for themselves. We must take action to help those who need it most and make sure we are giving them all the assistance they need to make sure their homes are fuel-rich instead of fuel-poor.

"It's simple: warmer homes mean cheaper energy bills. The less money that is spent on fuel, the more income people have to spend on things they really need, or want. No one wants - nor should they feel they have to - scrape every penny together simply to keep themselves and their families warm.

"The Council's Plan 2011 - 2015 puts housing as one of its top priorities. Through that we are committed to making sure we give our residents the best possible help and advice on how they can reduce their energy costs. We've already carried out a lot of work to make sure people are living in homes with a reasonable standard of warmth - something many of us take for granted.

"This money supports the interventions already in place with some extra add-ons. Not only will their homes become more energy efficient but health hazards due to excess cold are identified and dealt with. There are also wider benefits with better heated properties meaning an improved housing stock."

The Council has already invested £20,000 in its Housing Options for Older People service, £40,000 of capital money to improve the insulation of park homes and £20,000 in tackling fuel poverty through home energy visits and measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes.  

The project will link in with other initiatives currently ongoing in Teignbridge including the Council's Housing Options for Older People project, Devon County Council's Staying Warm and Well scheme and the Park Homes project, overseen by the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Residents who are in fuel poverty and on a low income will be offered a free benefits eligibility check in order to maximise income.

In a further boost, Teignbridge is one of four Councils to benefit from further funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change to encourage more eco-friendly households.

North Devon Council successfully bid for £500,000 money on behalf of North Devon, Teignbridge, Torridge and Mendip District Councils to support the launch of the Green Deal, which is the Government's new plan to help households improve their homes and save on energy bills.

The local money will fund a project called HEAT (Home Energy Action Taskforce), with the support of energy efficiency specialist and Green Deal pioneer, Enact Energy. This will see local businesses and community groups being trained to help deliver free Green Deal assessments over the next three months, while raising awareness of the assessment offer. 

The aim of the project is to increase energy efficiency measures being installed at homes across the region, such as loft and cavity insulation, new boilers or solid wall insulation.

It will kick-start the Green Deal in Teignbridge with around 2,500 free home assessments being carried out from now until March. These assessments will identify where energy savings can be made in the home.

The local energy scheme is one of 132 projects across Great Britain to be awarded a share of £46 million today.

Energy Secretary Edward Davey said:

"We need to find new ways to help people with their energy bills, working with communities and councils across the country. The projects we are funding will help people save energy and save money: helping the most vulnerable to heat their homes, getting the Green Deal market up and running and encouraging people to switch energy suppliers to get their bills down."

To find out more call Teignbridge District Council's Home Energy Officer Zoe Farmer 01626 215764.

For more information about the HEAT Project in Devon call 0800 093 4050