Electricity North West and Citizens Advice have joined forces to help provide crucial support for those who need a little extra help this winter.
The region’s power network operator has committed to a £250,000-a-year partnership with the charity for the next two years, starting immediately in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new partnership, which marks the launch of Electricity North West’s ‘Be Winter Ready’ campaign, is expected to help thousands of people over the next 24 months with free energy efficiency advice and support in managing their bills.
The money from Electricity North West is funding seven new members of staff for Citizens Advice, including five energy champions who will proactively contact customers to offer support as well as responding to referrals from the network.
Jo Crinson, Partnership Manager at Electricity North West, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Citizens Advice Manchester, a tremendous charity which makes a real difference to people every day.
“Winter can be a difficult time, and this one will be more challenging than usual due to the impacts of covid, and we want to help those who may find it more difficult than others, or just need additional support.
“The service that our key workers provide in operating the network only makes up a small proportion of overall energy bills, but nonetheless we want to make sure we look after our communities this winter, and this partnership will help us do that.”
Research, recently commissioned by Electricity North West, has revealed 13.01% of all households in its North West region are fuel poor, meaning their energy bills are higher than they can afford.
In Cumbria, the data revealed one local authority, Barrow-in-Furness (15.05%) was above the North West’s fuel poor average. The other four were just below: Carlisle (12.10%), Eden (11.95%), Copeland (11.74%) and South Lakeland (10.86%) fuel poor homes.
“If you have a power cut this winter we know that it might be more difficult than usual, so we’re doing everything we can to support those who need it. This new partnership means we can help more people, including those in fuel poverty, whether you have a power cut or not,” added Jo.
Electricity North West is also encouraging people to also sign up to its free priority service register to get advanced notice of planned power cuts needed for maintenance, and weather warnings when forecasts are predicted to affect power supplies. If there is an unplanned power cut, those on the register get prioritised and enhanced communication throughout and even practical help such as torches and hot food and drink in some instances.
Skilled staff from Citizens Advice will work with Electricity North West to promote the services on offer while also providing additional support.
Andy Brown, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Manchester said: “Citizens Advice Manchester are excited to be working with Electricity North West to ensure that customers who need extra help have access to the joined-up support and the advice that they need.
“As the cold weather moves in, we often see an increase in people coming to us for support with staying connected and keeping up with their energy costs; with the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to stay inside more, this support has never been more needed.
“We know that cold homes can have a significant impact on people’s physical and mental wellbeing, and thanks to Electricity North West’s support, thousands more people will be able to stay warm and well throughout this difficult winter and beyond.”
For more information about Electricity North West’s Be Winter Ready campaign, and how you can get extra support, go to www.enwl.co.uk/BeWinterReady.