Help available for people struggling with energy bills in Shropshire

Help is out there for people struggling to pay their winter fuel bills, says Shropshire Council.

The council used Friday's Fuel Poverty Awareness Day to outline the range of support and advice to help those in fuel poverty or facing other financial worries.

Fuel Poverty Awareness Day is a campaign led by charity National Energy Action (NEA).

In Shropshire alone an estimated 16,000 households are suffering from fuel poverty.

Rising energy costs, low incomes and inefficient homes leave them unable to afford even basic household essentials like, food and heating.

Living in a cold home can have a range of impacts on physical and mental health, and treating cold-related illness is estimated to cost the NHS in England and Wales over £2bn a year.

This year the fuel poverty situation will be even more difficult, says the council. The pandemic continues to squeeze household finances further, and the recent energy price increases will be being felt just as weather turns colder. Some of the health conditions caused or worsened by cold homes, such as asthma and COPD, also place people at greater risk from the virus.

The council says Keep Shropshire Warm offers free and impartial energy advice to anyone in need in the county.

A partnership between the council and Shrewsbury-based charity Marches Energy Agency (MEA), its advisers can support residents in getting grant funding, switching supplier or resolving fuel debt issues. Call free on 0800 112 3743 or via email at advice@mea.org.uk.

The Household Support Fund can help households in getting one-off payments of £115 to help with essential costs this winter. Letters have been sent to 3,600 households who receive Universal Credit (at a level that is below the threshold for free school meals or free prescriptions) and council tax support.

But households must fill in a form to get the money, tapping in details in the letter at shropshire.gov.uk/hhsupportfund.

The council now has a range of support and funding available to help the most vulnerable of Shropshire’s households to manage over the winter months.It is a limited pot of money and when it is gone, it's gone. To find out more call 0345 678 9078.

Oliver Rothwell, Shropshire Council’s Warm Homes Fund project officer, said: “With changes to Government benefits and increases in food and fuel costs, many of Shropshire’s residents could well be facing financial difficulty this winter. This can be particularly worrying if you’ve never found yourself in this position before.

“Everybody deserves to live in a warm and safe home. With many of us facing new challenges this winter, many people are spending additional time at home and may need support with how to stay warm and safe; while those who are ill or self-isolating may also have concerns about practical challenges in paying for their energy.

Claire Wooley, Marches Area Lead at Marches Energy Agency (MEA), added: “Already we’re seeing an increased demand for our support in the area. Many households struggle with fuel poverty every year in Shropshire, but with the extra pressure put on by the pandemic and energy price increases, more residents are concerned about staying warm this winter.

“We’re here to support those who are struggling to heat their homes or afford their energy bills, as well as householders looking to improve the energy efficiency of their home. We accept referrals from family and friends, so if you or someone you know is worried about fuel bills, please do get in touch.”

There are a number of grants available for residents to improve their heating and insulation at home, helping them reduce energy costs and stay warmer at home. More information and an online application from can be found at shropshire.gov.uk/keep-shropshire-warm.

To find out more about what other finance and welfare support is available during the winter months call our Welfare Support Team on 0345 678 9078 or visit shropshire.gov.uk/five-ways-to-winter-wellness/welfare-and-wellbeing.

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