Breaking Barriers

Citizens Advice East Dorset and Purbeck

Improving access to energy advice for 10,500 vulnerable Dorset households  

Our project at a glance 

  • Strategic priority area: Targeting geographic communities most at risk of fuel poverty 
  • Support target: 10,500 households over two years 
  • Duration: April 2024 – March 2026 
  • Investment: £684,162 over two years 
  • Forecast SROI: £1.36 

I would like to say thank you for your service and sorting out my energy problems and very special thanks to Nina who saw the process through for me.  With all I tried to do, I was completely ignored, but thanks to Citizens Advice, everything is done and sorted now.

Citizens Advice East Dorset and Purbeck client

Why we’re working together 

An estimated 3.26 million households were living in fuel poverty in England in 2022, based on the LILEE metric (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, 2023). This is an increase from 3.1 million in 2021, yet it doesn’t take into consideration the cost-of-living crisis that hit households throughout the winter of 2022-23 and beyond. 

In 2022, Dorset had the largest fuel poverty gap in the southwest of England region. Many factors contributed to this, including poor housing stock, lower-than-average incomes and a large proportion of off-gas properties.  

Citizens Advice East Dorset and Purbeck is an independent charity providing free confidential and impartial advice and support to the residents of Dorset. Over recent years they have built expertise in energy advice and deliver this via their Dorset Energy Unit which has become the go-to service for local organisations and agencies across both Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council areas.  

The team has eight years of addressing the underlying causes and barriers faced by residents struggling to maintain a safe and warm home. In recent years, the demand for the Energy Unit service has grown beyond capacity.  

In response to this need, we’ve developed a new and innovative service that unites us with Citizens Advice East Dorset and Purbeck, as well as local councils and other community organisations, to help alleviate fuel poverty in the region. Together, we’re improving access to energy advice services for Dorset residents with a specific focus on reaching vulnerable households to struggle to access such services. 

Project objectives 

  • Providing 4,300 vulnerable Dorset households with personalised face-to-face energy advice  
  • Providing a further 4,500 households with light-touch in-person advice at events and warm spaces 
  • Delivering 150 energy events and workshops at warm spaces and other community hubs  
  • Promoting the Priority Services Register and helping families sign up for the free service 
  • Raising awareness of carbon monoxide (CO) safety and providing free CO alarms where appropriate 
  • Training 200 frontline workers and volunteers on energy safeguarding  
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Energy advisers from Citizens Advice East Purbeck and Dorset

How we’re working together 

One-to-one energy safeguarding   

Through one-to-one sessions with Citizens Advice Energy Unit advisers, we’re providing energy safeguarding support tailored to meet the needs of Dorset’s diverse community. The qualified and experienced advisers help alleviate the financial stress caused by rising energy prices and help households stay safe and warm at home.  

If eligible, Citizens Advice advisers will support vulnerable customers to sign up to the Priority Services Register. They will also identify households who would benefit from other energy safeguards, including a referral to a Citizens Advice energy debt caseworker, our free locking cooker valve, a Surviving Winter Grant from the Dorset Community Foundation for over 50s in fuel poverty or a winter warm pack funded by Ridgewater Energy and Dorset Council. 

Community outreach 

As part of our partnership, we’re setting up a new dedicated Energy Advice Bus. This mobile service allows us to expand our service to cover the entire country of Dorset, targeting areas of deprivation and offering households expert energy advice and onward support. 

To ensure our services are inclusive and effective at reaching those households who aren’t easily able to access such support, we’re offering translation services for people unable to communicate in English as well as BSL interpretation.  

Energy events at warm hubs 

In addition to our mobile Energy Advice Bus service, we’re holding 150 energy events and workshops at warm spaces across the county. These events are an opportunity for us to engage with households in fuel poverty and provide them with advice on how to maintain a safe and warm home.  

Supporting families in energy crisis 

When the Citizens Advice team identifies a household in crisis and unable to pay their energy bills, we’re able to provide emergency fuel vouchers funded by our partner Fuel Bank Foundation.  

Training for frontline workers 

We have an ambition to train 200 frontline workers and volunteers on energy safeguarding and the referral paths to support vulnerable households living in fuel poverty. These frontline workers and volunteers will be supporting Dorset residents at organisations such as the NHS, local authorities, faith groups and housing associations. 

How to get involved 

Accessing the Energy Unit service 

As one of our VCMA network partners, you can refer your clients in Dorset to the Energy Unit by getting in touch with the team through the Citizens Advice East Dorset and Purbeck website

If you live in the East Dorset and Purbeck area and you’re struggling with your energy bills or need energy advice, you can contact the East Dorset and Purbeck Citizens Advice team directly through the charity’s website or visit one of their offices or outreach centres.  

Becoming a partner 

You can find out more about working with Citizens Advice East Dorset and Purbeck through the charity’s website

We are excited to be working in partnership with SGN who are helping us to achieve our strategic aim to provide advice to the community in the locations where our clients need us and when they need us. 

Working together we are able to realise our ambition to establish a new Citizens Advice Energy Advice Van which will be out on the roads in rural Dorset, supporting and enabling the most vulnerable people in the community to access the advice they need.

Katrina Ford

Business Manager, Citizens Advice East Dorset and Purbeck