Collaboration harnesses Ofgem support for joint effort to tackle fuel poverty

SGN Customer Experience Manager Linda Spence and Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brearley packing bags for families in need at the Trussell Trust Food Bank

AN IMPACTFUL collaboration between energy company SGN and Citizens Advice Scotland is tackling the urgent issue of fuel poverty in the country.

The pioneering approach has been made possible by Ofgem funding, with the energy industry regulator’s Chief Executive Jonathan Brearley seeing for himself the difference the support is making during a recent visit to a community support venue in Glasgow.

During the event at Glasgow Elim Church’s Warm Space, leaders from SGN and Citizens Advice joined Mr Brearley to hear and see how support is provided in the city with help from the local food bank, which is part of the Trussell Trust network

The Ofgem funds are provided via the Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA), which have ensured crucial support to vulnerable households across Scotland as well as Glasgow.

With one in three Scottish households now finding themselves in fuel poverty, the partnership between SGN and Citizens Advice Scotland, has become increasingly vital.

Since April 2021, 29 of SGN’s VCMA funded partnerships have supported 144,209 households across Scotland access over 315,000 services to help them use energy safely, efficiently, and affordably. 

Among these initiatives is the Safe and Warm Outreach Advice Service, reaching out to regional communities in dire need. This service offers tailored energy advice, access to emergency funds, energy safeguarding, and onward support specific to the needs of each household battling fuel poverty.

Funded through this partnership, specialist energy advisors in Citizens Advice Bureaus working in the most deprived areas of Scotland have the expertise to support individuals in energy crises and fuel poverty. They offer bespoke advice on energy bills, debt management, energy tariffs, heating solutions, benefits, and access to support, helping people to use energy safely, efficiently, and affordably.

During his visit to the Warm Space, Mr Brearley engaged in a session with a Safe and Warm Energy Advisor and a local community member seeking support and guidance. This first-hand experience allowed him to grasp the depth of impact created by the partnership’s efforts in supporting those most in need.

SGN Customer Experience Manager Linda Spence said: “Working with Citizen Advice Scotland across our network is helping to reach those most vulnerable in the communities we serve. 

“As demonstrated during our visit to Elim Church, our partnership is making a real difference to those who are most vulnerable and in need of support, through charities such as Trussell Trust in local foodbanks and Community Warm Spaces. 

“People impacted by fuel poverty are in real crisis and we are seeing more people accessing local services as they struggle with the cost-of-living crisis. I am so proud and humbled to be in partnership with so many charitable organisations who every day are supporting people in crisis who are making life choices to either stay warm or feed their families.”

Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive at Ofgem said: “We want to see energy companies being proactive in identifying and then helping those people who are struggling with bills and this partnership between Citizens Advice, Trussell Trust and SGN is a great example of what can be achieved through collaboration.

“Although the energy price cap has fallen, we know that wider cost of living pressures mean there are still a significant group of people struggling with their bills. Where Ofgem can take action, we have, such as changing standing charges for PPM customers, so they are not charged more than anyone else. 

“However, a longer-term solution is needed and that requires us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture – what’s working, what is not and where are the gaps. That’s why earlier this week we launched a call for input on affordability and I would encourage all our partners across the sector to share their views.”

Derek Mitchell, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Scotland said: “We really value our partnership work with SGN to deliver the holistic advice people need during this cost-of-living crisis.

“Across the Citizens Advice network energy has grown as an area of advice demand and one in five people seeking advice around food insecurity has needed energy advice as well. Meanwhile, the average energy debt for individuals seeking complex debt advice across the network is £2,307 – up nearly £500 compared to the same time last year.

“For far too many heating or eating is a weekly choice and it’s so welcome that organisations like SGN play a role in supporting our work to deliver free, impartial, and confidential advice to anyone who needs it.”

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