Extra help to help area’s fuel poverty

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The ‘Plugging the Gap Project’ which was so successful last winter in supporting over 50 people with severe fuel poverty needs in Louth and Mablethorpe has received additional funding from the Ebico Trust to extend 
its reach to Alford for this winter, working in partnership with Alford Community Church.

Last winter’s pilot scheme helped with direct financial assistance for coal, heaters or money for the meter. Further support was provided from trained volunteers and partner organisations such as Home Start and the Credit Union and centred on benefit and debt advice and budgeting skills as well as important information on keeping warm and saving energy.

This year’s project will run from October 2014 to March 2015 and is jointly managed by local charity The Parish of Louth and by countywide community development charity Community Lincs.

The Ebico Trust for sustainable development is the charitable arm of Ebico, a not for profit energy supplier. It supports initiatives to improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low income householders and offers support and advice on saving energy – thereby reducing their fuel bills still further.

Janet Clark from Community Lincs said: “Rural residents are among those most likely to suffer from fuel poverty.”

One of the first people helped by Plugging the Gap was Maria who approached Andy, from East Lindsey Citizens Advice Bureau, as she was struggling with her heating bills and purchasing food.

Marie had a significant fuel debt on her electricity prepayment meter and generally struggled to budget. She initially received help in the form of a top-up to her prepayment meter and a food parcel donation.

However, the project’s aim is to provide people with skills so they can manage on their own in the future. So Maria was helped with support in getting in touch with her energy supplier, who agreed to reduce her fuel debt by writing some of the debt off. Plugging the Gap also involved other charities who have supported her in various other ways. Apart from some financial problems, Marie also lacked budgeting and cooking skills and she had very little confidence.

Marie has been helped with budgeting and, as a result, her confidence has grown significantly since she was first referred. Her fuel debt is now manageable and she has more confidence in talking to her supplier.