With our Warm & Safe Homes scheme, sponsored by Wales & West Utilities, well underway in Cardiff we asked Katrina to reflect on her first few months as a Community Energy Champion. Over to you Katrina…
I became a Community Energy Champion with Warm Wales in July 2017, with extensive experience of working with people in the community and a love of meeting new people, I couldn’t wait to get started on the Warm & Safe Homes scheme. However, before I and my fellow champion Corey could get started, we had to spend time at Warm Wales HQ learning the system, writing the questionnaire and designing the database that would capture the referral data.
Working with other Warm Wales staff we also needed to meet all of the scheme partners to agree what we could offer householders and how referrals would be processed. This allowed us to meet some lovely people at organisations like our sponsors Wales & West Utilities, Cardiff Council, the Money Advice Service, Welsh Water, Care & Repair Cardiff and Action in Caerau & Ely. Everyone was supportive and fully behind the aim of creating warmer and safer homes for those who needed them.
It was late September when we finally got started knocking doors in Llanishen. With our partners Cardiff Council having written to householders about our impending visit, we were grateful to get a warm Cardiff welcome at most places we visited.
A typical day consists of visiting streets in Llanishen and knocking on doors to inform householders of the various services they could access through Warm & Safe Homes and the advice we could offer on energy tariffs and energy efficiency. With a lot on offer we found that most of the people we spoke to could either save some money or make their home safer.
In all the project aims to support over 9000 hard-to-reach vulnerable fuel poor households in a 12-month period. We are doing this by offering energy advice, help with tariff switching, smart metering advice, adding people to the Priority Service Register and providing carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke alarms.
We can also refer householders to partner organisations for help with things like fuel arrears, general debt, or help with health and social needs. We also inform people of new money saving schemes offered by Welsh Water for people on low income or who use a lot of water due to health issues.
With £15000 in savings reached in our first 3 months we found that helping people to search for the best energy tariff and encouraging eligible households to join the Help U tariff from Welsh Water was particularly effective. There has also been considerable demand for CO and smoke alarms which we have been delighted to meet.
On our travels we have been fortunate to meet some lovely people and hear some heart-warming stories. These have included a gentleman whose hobby is astronomy and showed me pictures of the moon, an army veteran who was stationed in Japan during WWII, and a former Cardiff tram driver who showed me a model of the one he drove.
I have also met retired teachers and nurses who gave so much to their community but are now struggling with high heating costs and in need of help.
I have been greeted by some friendly dogs, cats and even one lizard, and have been offered more tea and biscuits than I can count. The welcoming spirit of most people has been genuinely heart-warming and I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to help. It may be a chilly winter but I can’t wait to see what the coming months have in store.