Blackpool has more households classed as fuel poor (15.2%) than any other part of Lancashire, a startling statistic, especially when compared with the national average of 10.3% (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). The reasons for this are complex and varied, and a solution requires focus from multiple areas. Many organisations across the North West are already working hard to address this issue. But what if efforts could be enhanced in a specific area, such as Blackpool, through channelling resources and working smarter together?
Warren Ward, Director of Barkers, a procurement consultancy based in Chorley, believes wholeheartedly in the power of connecting organisations to effect change. An Executive Director on the Fylde Coast Responsible Business Network, Warren knew of the Cadent Foundation, which was set up by local gas network Cadent, to make a positive and lasting impact on fuel poverty through working with charities that address the root causes.
Warren connected Julia Dwyer, Director of the Cadent Foundation, with Maggie Cornall, Director of Operations at Blackpool Coastal Housing (BCH) which manages the Council’s social housing stock and provides related services to its tenants and leasehold customers. Together Blackpool Coastal Housing, Cadent Foundation and Cadent, have collaborated to fund and establish the Warm and Healthy Homes Project, an initiative that supports vulnerable people to access support that will improve energy efficiency within their homes. The timing couldn’t be better, with households across the UK facing rising prices for basic necessities such as food and energy.
Julia Dwyer, Director at Cadent Foundation, explains further: ‘The cost of living crisis is a very real issue of concern affecting thousands of households across the country. We’ve all heard the headlines that gas and electricity prices will almost double by the end of the year which has the potential to plunge countless households into uncertainty. That’s why the Warm and Healthy Homes Project is so vital. The more that we can do to help people to make their homes energy efficient, the lower those bills will be.’
Edward Allard, Customer Safeguarding Manager at Cadent, said: “In addition to Cadent Foundation’s contribution, we realised quickly that other sources of funding that Cadent has access to could be put to great use on this project. We were able to allocate additional funding from our Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance. This has funded a dedicated case worker and has enabled Blackpool Coastal Housing to provide personalised support for local residents. The impact of this has been incredible – life-changing really for many people living in vulnerable situations.”
In the first three months of the project, 67 households benefited from the scheme which facilitates individual assessments by a trained Advisor, followed by bespoke solutions. This could include the replacement of inefficient heating systems, installation of insulation or the repair of energy release hotspots in the home. As well as support with practical measures, households can also receive affordable warmth advice, help with managing fuel debt, and assistance with claiming the Warm Homes Discount. Combining both the Cadent Foundation and Cadent’s funding has ensured a holistic approach to tackling fuel poverty.
An example of the difference this initiative has made to vulnerable people in Blackpool is Jean. Jean had to give up work to care for her husband with a brain injury. Her boiler had broken leaving them with no heating or hot water and Jean had reached crisis point. She contacted the local carers and once an advisor visited Jean, she was referred to BCH Community to discuss what help she could receive. Jean’s hot water and heating was restored, she was provided with a dehumidifier drawing moisture out of the property to reduce the damp significantly, and as a consequence, the couples’ health and wellbeing was significantly improved.
The project is a great example of the power of networking and how organisations working together can make a huge impact on the lives of others. Warren explains: ‘Cadent and The Cadent Foundation was the perfect pairing for Blackpool Coastal Housing. The organisations care deeply about alleviating fuel poverty and enhancing living conditions for all, so the connection seemed an obvious one to make. It’s great to see the Warm and Healthy Homes Project benefiting 67 households already, with many more opportunities to support vulnerable people identified.’
Maggie Cornall added: ‘It’s been fantastic to work with the Cadent Foundation, and then Cadent itself too, the result of which has seen a real and tangible benefit to individuals and families in Blackpool. We are committed to continue this work and have identified additional opportunities for Cadent and BCH to focus on improving our impact on the wider community. We are in discussions to lower our carbon footprint for example, and Cadent are supporting us through this process.’
The impact that connecting three organisations with similar visions is substantial, and it’s something that Warren sees regularly in his role as Commercial Director at Barkers and his role as non-Executive Director for the Fylde Coast Responsible Business Network and Non-Executive Director at third sector organisation, Jobs, Friends, Houses. He commented: ‘I feel the real value we can bring as business leaders is connecting other businesses within our networks to the causes we support. If we can inspire other organisations to use their networks for good then individuals, communities and wider society can all realise the benefits.’