FUEL poverty charity, National Energy Action (NEA), has been awarded a £1.8 million grant from the Cadent Foundation as part of a two-year strategic partnership that aims to help vulnerable people stay warm and safe in their homes.
The funding will be used to expand ‘Reactive Response’, a pioneering new safeguarding system created by NEA, gas distribution network Cadent and the Cadent Foundation. The initiative first arose with a desire from Cadent engineers to do more to support customers who were faced with having their gas supply disconnected on safety grounds. Regulations state that engineers are required to disconnect or isolate the supply of gas to an appliance or property in the event of a gas emergency, which poses a risk to life and property. However, this can leave vulnerable customers unable to cover the costs of repairing or replacing the appliances, exposing them to the danger of living in a cold home, potentially with no heating, hot water or means of cooking.
The Reactive Response scheme offers a solution by providing support for vulnerable customers who do not have the means or capacity to arrange necessary works following the disconnection of their gas supply. It allows Cadent engineers to refer customers to NEA, who then organise the necessary repair or replacement work (subject to eligibility). This can range from a simple gas pipework repair to replacing gas appliances and even installing full central heating systems.
Once the gas supply has been safely reinstated, NEA offers customers comprehensive energy efficiency advice, helping customers to be better able to heat their homes at an affordable cost. They are also supported to access other sources of help such as the Warm Home Discount and Priority Services Register, offered a Benefit Entitlement Check and support to claim any identified benefits for which they are eligible. This can lead to significant income gains as a result of a Reactive Response referral.
In 2020, the Cadent Foundation awarded a £612,000 grant to NEA for a one-year Reactive Response pilot project across Cadent’s networks – North West, South Yorkshire, West Midlands, East Midlands, East of England and North London. Based on the huge success of the pilot programme, a further £1.8 million has now been awarded to fund the initiative for another two years.
Peter Sumby, Director of Operations, NEA, said:
“Having an appliance condemned or gas supply disconnected can be devastating, particularly for those who are already struggling to afford heating costs and other essentials. Through this partnership, we’ve been able to get people back on track, helping them live in homes that are safe and warm. The grant awarded from the Cadent Foundation will enable us to help many more households, and we are thrilled to be able to continue this vital work.”
Julia Dwyer, Cadent Foundation Director, said:
“Supporting people out of fuel poverty is one of the fundamental objectives of the Cadent Foundation, and the Reactive Response scheme offers an innovative new approach to tackling a growing problem. This is the first initiative of its kind within the energy industry, and its impact on vulnerable customers has already been phenomenal.
“A referral from a Cadent engineer to NEA can be the key to re-establishing a safe and effective heating system in the home of a vulnerable person. The pilot phase resulted in more than 700 successful referrals, which is testament to the high level of need and frequency with which vulnerable customers find themselves at risk of living in a cold home, with no access to hot water or cooking facilities following a gas emergency.
“By helping people to achieve affordable warmth, the Reactive Response scheme is reducing the number of households likely to be in fuel poverty, improving health and wellbeing and consequently, reducing demand on primary health care services. There has also been a significant impact on Cadent frontline staff. By referring a customer for assistance, they can leave knowing that their needs are being taken care of, giving them peace of mind and job satisfaction.
“We hope that this initiative will one day become standard business practice across the industry, providing a blueprint that all gas and electric distribution networks can replicate to support vulnerable customers.”
One of those helped by the scheme is Binita, who is in her 80s and was initially referred after her boiler was condemned. Through the scheme, NEA was able to replace not only her boiler but a full central heating system. Her son contacted NEA to say, ‘I am quite frankly lost for words, this has not only helped my mother enormously financially but will also give her peace of mind of a new system fully working and the correct levels of warmth and hot water within the home for many years to come. From myself and my mother, we cannot express enough our gratitude’.
The Cadent Foundation is funded by the gas network Cadent and has been established to support projects large and small that help people living in vulnerable situations and energy-poor communities, protect and preserve the natural environment, and support in creating a sustainable energy future for all. More information can be found at: www.cadentfoundation.com.
National Energy Action (NEA) is a national charity working to end fuel poverty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information, please visit: www.nea.org.uk.