Supporting vulnerable Scottish households to maintain a safe and warm home
[The energy adviser] helped us to apply for things we were entitled to – unbelievable. Getting new boiler and radiators, smoke alarms. Getting benefits we never knew about and debt written off. We can never thank her enough for her assistance.
Citizens Advice bureau client
Why we’re working together
According to Energy Action Scotland, one in three Scottish households is now in fuel poverty. Even before the cost-of-living crisis, many families were finding their energy bills unaffordable.
Citizens Advice Scotland is the largest independent advice service in Scotland and the go-to agency for households in crisis.
We’ve partnered with Citizens Advice Scotland on a growing portfolio of projects across Scotland, helping us extend our support to households who need it most across the country.
North Scotland Energy Advisory Services pilot
As we emerged from the pandemic, more and more households were approaching Citizens Advice bureaux for help managing their living costs. In the north of Scotland in particular, Citizens Advice bureaux were finding it challenging to meet the increased demand.
In collaboration with Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN), we partnered with Citizens Advice Scotland on a 12-month trial to embed trained energy advisers in Citizens Advice bureaux in north Scotland.
Specialist energy advisers based in Citizens Advice’s bureaux helped households address energy affordability by providing tailored support around energy usage, fuel debt, benefit checks and income maximisation. Where the household was eligible for the Priority Services Register, advisers encouraged the client to register and helped them to do so if needed.
Citizens Advice’s holistic approach allowed advisers to combine specialist fuel poverty advice with guidance and information on other issues that affect their clients’ health and wellbeing.
Our 12-month programme well exceeded our target of supporting 820 clients by providing much-needed support to 1,137 vulnerable households across north Scotland.
Safe and Warm Advice Service
Building on the learning of our pilot project with Citizens Advice bureaux in the north of Scotland, we developed a new programme to expand the service into regional communities identified as being in greatest need through our Vulnerability Index and where there is no existing dedicated energy advice service.
This enables us to help people in energy crisis and facing fuel poverty across Scotland to access the support they need to maintain a safe and warm home, particularly those in the most deprived parts of our network.
The specialist energy advisers support households with bespoke energy advice including help with billing and energy debt, backbilling issues, benefit entitlement checks and support to access the PSR. When an adviser encounters a household in crisis, we’re able to provide emergency funds and food vouchers to alleviate their immediate financial pressures.
We’ve engaged our training partner Gas Safe Charity to equip Citizens Advice Bureau advisers with skills and knowledge to educate households and frontline workers on carbon monoxide safety.
Safe and Warm – additional winter funding
From February 2023, we provided an additional £352,200 in winter funding to train over 300 frontline workers on energy safeguarding and build further capacity for trained Citizens Advice Scotland energy advisers to provide much-needed support for over 1,890 households in energy crisis.
This funded a gap in the provision of energy services, several of which would finish at the end of March. Through this project, we took Citizens Advice bureaux services directly into communities that needed our help the most by placing advisers in existing community facilities, such as libraries, community hubs and health centres.
Winter outreach programme 2023/24
Our winter outreach programme is supporting households facing fuel poverty in 14 of the most deprived areas of Scotland between October 2023 and March 2024. We’re delivering face-to-face holistic energy and income maximisation advice to around 2,400 households at community hubs, such as foodbanks, libraries and warm hubs.
We’re also providing energy advice training for up to 1,300 frontline workers, covering topics including energy efficiency, the Priority Services Register and carbon monoxide awareness.
SGN is clearly passionate about supporting those in need. Its commitment to supporting vulnerable customers has been invaluable, particularly at a time when we are experiencing a huge increase in the demand for energy advice. Energy advice is now our single biggest area of need and it’s the first time since welfare reform in the 2010s that social security hasn’t been the single biggest issue we are encountering.