Thanet council has seen a 200% increase in demand for help from its home energy team.
In Thanet 19.2% of homes (12,300) are facing fuel poverty, particularly as costs increase. Households with low incomes, older people and people with disabilities are hardest hit.
NEA, the lead in UK fuel poverty analysis, estimates that due to the energy price rises and the reductions in household income, there has been a national increase in fuel poverty of 50%.
Thanet council’s recruited a Home Energy Officer in August 2020, and they are now responsible for submitting grant bids and sourcing external funding for residents of Thanet to support households who are struggling with their energy bills. A Home Energy Assistant was recruited in August 2021. Between the months of June and August 2021 the service received 76 referrals. But for the same months in 2022, referrals rose to 250 – an increase of more than 200%.
A new officer will now be recruited to join the team to help low income households find out how to reduce costs and access grants
The idea for a further ‘cold buster’ officer was proposed by shadow Cabinet member Rob Yates a meeting in January to provide energy advice and referrals for private rented households and install low cost measures such as:
- Power down devices
- Radiator foils
- LED bulbs
- CO alarms
- Draft proofing
- Chimney balloons
- Make adjustments to hot water and heating temperatures
- Demonstrate smart metering
The proposal was deferred until a report could be prepared. This was presented to Thanet council Cabinet members at a meeting last week, where they approved the extra staffing.
The aim is to pay for the extra officer from the Better Care Fund which is a pooled budget across district and county councils and health services. It is used for Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) and wider housing, health and social care areas.
There is particular emphasis on reducing long stays in hospital (bed blocking) by speeding-up the provision of care and adaptation services and on reducing admissions to hospital by improving energy efficiency, security and safety in the home.
For 2022/23 there was a fund of £3.025million with just over £2million used for Disabled Facility Grants and further spending on areas including occupational therapy, handyman services, discretionary grants and the home energy staff.
Speaking at the meeting Cllr Yates said: “It is shocking to read that there is 20% fuel poverty in Thanet and important to know that referrals to the home energy team increased by 200% over the past year so it is great that this recommendation has been taken forward..”
Council leader Ash Ashbee added: “It is a very serious issue and this (home energy officer) will be a great assistance to the area.”
Following the meeting Cllr Yates said: “I’m delighted that the Labour amendment to address fuel poverty with an additional home energy officer was recommended by council officers and approved by the Conservative administration
“One in five households in Thanet are in fuel poverty and the demand on our excellent home energy team has increased by 200% in a year. I’m excited by the potential this new role brings to help low income renters in Thanet.”