Ferndown-based The Bus Stop Club Charity and Hope Church is taking the opportunity to highlight the issue of fuel poverty during Warm Homes Week which runs from 27-30 September.
The charity and church run a Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Debt Centre, which offers free debt help for clients in the local area.
Pam Ansell, East Dorset & Ringwood Debt Centre manager said: “We’ve seen food prices rise, the Universal Credit uplift being cut and now with fuel tariffs increasing we’re worried about where this will leave people.
“We’re encouraging people to access help and support towards the beginning of the winter rather than waiting until the end.
“Many of those we help have struggled to stay warm over the winter, but knowing where to get support, combined with some simple energy saving tips, can make a difference.”
There are several schemes and top tips, which can help people with saving money and staying warm this winter:
1. Check with your energy company whether you are on the most appropriate tariff for your gas and electricity and if necessary, shop around for a cheaper deal by swapping suppliers.
2. Ensure that your meter readings are accurate and that you are only paying for the energy you use.
3. Investigate whether your home needs insulation to keep as much of the heat you are paying for in your home rather than having it escape through the roof and walls. Find local sources of support for warmer homes such as boiler grants and free loft insulation. For more details see:
4. Turn the thermostat down by just two degrees from 20°C to 18°C. This will make a big difference. If you can afford to, make sure that you have your boiler serviced to ensure it is operating efficiently. If you still feel cold, wrap up in a jumper or blanket before turning the thermostat up any higher.
5. Spend less time in the shower by setting a timer. This could save a family of four, on average, as much as £100 per year.
6. Use cold water for handwashing. It’s the soap that kills the bacteria, not the hot water.
7. Unplug your microwave. A microwave uses energy to power its clock 24/7. By unplugging it when you’re not using it, you can really cut down on electricity.
8. Replace your light bulbs. Moving from traditional incandescent bulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) or LED bulbs saves money because they are 90% more energy efficient and last 50 times longer.
CAP client, Peter, explained how CAP helped him: “The letters were piling on the anxiety. It wasn’t good. When you’ve got that pressure on you, it makes you feel very depressed. You don’t want anybody to find out, so you try and keep everything to yourself.
“I was paying to settle my debts with gas and electricity – it was an accumulation of debt over time.
“Now the debt is paid off. It makes life easier. I don’t have to pay those increased costs as I’m not in debt anymore. The payments have come down, so I have more money to play around with. Now, I have gas, electric and insurance which are all paid by direct debit. Then I have water and television that I pay for regularly. Now once I’ve paid those I don’t have to worry.
“When something comes through the door now, I don’t have to feel afraid anymore. It’s great! I’m not fearful of it.
“Working with CAP has made a big difference to my life now. It’s a sense of being determined not to get into that situation again. That’s the biggest thing for me. And to try and keep to a budget.
“It’s a bit of a reality check. It’s easy to get into debt, anybody can get into debt, and there are people a lot worse off than me. But there’s no use running away from it and burying your head in the sand. You’ve got to face up to it and want to try and sort it.”
Pam added: “For some people, like Graham, it may be that debt help is needed but for others, these simple tips or knowing where to access help with grants and low-cost support schemes can be all that’s needed to go into the winter feeling prepared.”
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