The energy efficiency project that delivers more than warmer homes

Groundwork Bolton, Bury, Oldham and Rochdale launched the Energyworks programme just over three years ago to respond to the needs of local communities.

UK homes are among the least energy efficient in Europe and we have one of the highest rates of fuel poverty. Government figures released in 2014 show that more than one in 10 English households is now living in fuel poverty.

Having a warm home is one of the most important aspects of having a happy, healthy life. A cold home can lead to ill health and depression for people of all ages. With energy bills set to increase into the future, becoming energy efficient is more important than ever.

Through Energyworks, Groundwork is helping residents make their homes warmer and healthier. We’re working with social landlords, local authorities, health partners and residents groups to tackle fuel poverty within local communities.

As the programme has developed and extended its reach, we have also begun to focus on the resident as well as the fabric of the home as we believe that is the best strategy for tackling the many issues connected to fuel poverty.

Recent YouGov research shows that energy bills are the number one financial concern for households but 66% of people think there is nothing they can do about their rising cost.

That’s where Energyworks comes in.

How it works

We provide a bespoke package of support services tailored to the needs of specific communities.

Trained advisers provide practical door-to-door support to residents – often those most at risk of fuel poverty. The aim is to ensure residents are able to sustain their tenancies, cut their energy bills and increase their disposable income.

Services include everything from providing energy performance certificates (EPCs) and installing energy saving measures to fuel debt management, health and safety advice and signposting to other local support services.

Advisers also look at what additional funding from government or local authorities is available to households. Following this they liaise with a contractor to complete the work and leave residents with a warmer, healthier home and reduced energy bills.

I believe what makes Energyworks different is it can offer a one-stop-shop of services and benefits that other providers cannot.

By adopting a community based approach the initiative can add real value and high social return on investment.

There are a number of factors that have made Energyworks a success:

  • Expert interface – we build relationships with both the residents and the contractor to act as an expert intermediary, ensuring work is completed with minimum hassle
  • People focused – our resident led, door-to-door approach enables us to engage with the hardest to reach people – often those most at risk of fuel poverty. For example, of the 432 households visited last year, three-quarters were in receipt of benefits and 82% spent more than a tenth of their income on fuel
  • Training and employment outcomes – our canvassers and EPC assessors have been recruited locally, trained up and employed through Energyworks
  • Trusted brand – as part of an established charity often working in partnership with local authorities we quickly gain trust from residents
  • Additional outcomes – we can work with partners to deliver more from our home visits. This can include benefit entitlement checks, health talks and home risk assessments. That can have far-reaching consequences when you consider that 13% of those visited had respiratory illness, 13% had mental health issues and 5% cardiovascular disease
  • Measuring impact – using our analysis and reporting systems we can capture valuable data and evidence the impact of the project. This includes health and wellbeing outcomes through the use of tools such as WEMWBS. It shows that 47% of people now economise more, 52% felt they lived in a warmer house, 60% reported improved health and 42% had fewer fixed GP appointments. Overall, two-thirds said they had stuck to all the agreed actions.

Ultimately, it’s about understanding that many of the issues households are facing are interlinked. While the starting point for Energyworks is to make homes warmer and more energy efficiency, it makes the most of interactions it has with local people to deliver a deeper impact.

Vicki Devonport

Vicki Devonport

Executive director, Groundwork Bury, Bolton, Oldham & Rochdale

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