Help at hand for Fifers to stay warm at home this winter

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Fuel poverty is a real and persistent problem in Fife with an estimated 34 per cent of households having to spend more than 10 per cent of their incomes to heat their homes adequately.

It is especially difficult during the winter months with many people struggling to afford to heat their homes and keep their energy bills under control as the temperatures fall.

But there is a Fife scheme which is here to help.

Cosy Kingdom is a partnership project, providing home energy, debt and fuel poverty advice services across the region.

The project provides free and impartial home energy advice and support for households wanting to stay warm this winter. The service is open to all tenants and homeowners in all Fife postcodes and has already helped more than 5000 people since it was launched in 2010.

Fuel poverty affects the poor, with its roots in the quality of housing, household income levels and the cost of fuel.

The issue has different impacts in different parts of the Kingdom, and across different demographic groups. Those most at risk of fuel poverty include older people, those with disabilities or long term illnesses which keep them at home, low income families with young children, and others on a low income. People living in rural areas, or living in homes with a poor energy efficiency rating, are also especially vulnerable.

Cosy Kingdom helps households out of fuel poverty by giving tailored advice and support. Its advisors visit participants in their home to help them find practical and affordable ways to save energy.

They can negotiate with suppliers, the council and housing associations on the participant’s behalf, and if needed, will refer people to a free and impartial debt advisor from CARF.

Advisors can help with: Identifying energy efficiency improvements for the property, understanding energy bills and tariffs, switching suppliers, applying for Warm Homes Discount, understanding heating controls, free benefit and tax credit checks, fuel billing and debt advice.

They can also identify eligibility for grants and funding for new heating systems, insulation and renewables and there is a free handy service for those eligible for free energy saving measures.

The service is delivered by three voluntary sector partners – Greener Kirkcaldy (lead partner), St Andrews Environmental Network and Citizen’s Advice & Rights Fife. All of these are registered charities.

The partners allocate work among them based on geographic areas, specialist skills, and available resources. The service also works closely with fuel poverty officer Libby McWilliams, with Fife Housing Association Alliance, and with many other partners in Fife Council and the local voluntary sector.

Bruce McCall, Cosy Kingdom project manager, said: “Our advisors visit you in the comfort of your home to help you find practical and affordable ways to save energy, understand your bills and tariffs and advise on fuel debt.

“One visit might focus on showing a tenant how to set central heating timers and controls; another may involve negotiating a fuel debt reduction and payment plan with the energy supplier.

“In addition, our ‘handy’ service can fit energy-saving measures such as low-energy light bulbs and warm curtains. These measures are free but means-tested, to prioritise household’s in hardship.”

Jane Kell, manager of St Andrews Environmental Network, said the network carries out home visits throughout North East Fife and Glenrothes as part of the Cosy Kingdom Partnership. She said: “We give tailored energy advice to householders on ways to reduce their energy usage and their bills. Part of that general advice is the no cost measures they can take to reduce energy bills.”

These measures include: Advising people to turn their thermostat down by 1°C – it can save as much as £60 per year; Turning the pressure down on the power shower. And if you’re going to use the oven, bake a few meals at a time to get the most out of having the oven on. It is also advised to leave the oven door open after cooking to let the heat warm the kitchen.

Fifers are also urged to not leave appliances on standby: it’s a way to waste energy.