A council team has been recognised for its work to help elderly and vulnerable residents with their energy during a time of higher living costs.
Durham County Council’s Warm and Healthy Homes (WHH) Team was crowned National Energy Champions of the Year at this year’s Energy Awards for its work to prevent increased risk of ill health as a result of rising energy bills.
Working with the council’s Housing Solutions and Managing Money Better services, County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Age UK, and Pacifica 0800 Repair, the project involves teaming up with GP practices to provide direct assistance to vulnerable residents.
Through the scheme, GP practices write to patients with conditions such as Long Covid, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma, as well as families with premature babies, with the option to complete a questionnaire about their home, health, and any cold related issues they have.
The patient is then contacted by the WHH team to carry out a home visit and discuss the help that is available.
Assistance provided by the WHH team ranges from help with boiler and insulation grants, gas boiler servicing and repairs and warm homes discount applications, as well as offering free advice on energy tariffs.
It also includes carbon monoxide awareness advice, referrals to the Priority Services Register, and referrals to the fire and rescue service for fire safety home visits.
The team also makes direct referrals on behalf of the person for the government’s Energy Company Obligations (ECO) grants, benefits advice, fuel tariff and fuel debt referrals.
Since the project commenced, the team has worked with nine GP practices to write to 11,300 patients and has arranged for 899 gas boilers to be installed and 1,200 insulation grants equating to over £2.3m of ECO funding.
The team has assisted 649 patients to save over £66,000 from their energy tariffs and in fuel debt write offs from energy supply companies.
It has also made 430 referrals to the fire service and 730 referrals to the Priority Services Register, as well as delivering 500 carbon monoxide awareness sessions to residents to make them aware of the dangers of portable gas heaters.
The Energy Award was presented to Cliff Duff and Hayley Rourke from the WHH team at a ceremony in London.
Cllr Alan Shield, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for equality and inclusion, said: “I would like to say a huge well done to the Warm and Healthy Homes Team for its amazing achievement in supporting so many residents with their homes and energy.
“A well-heated home can make a significant difference to the health of someone who is elderly or vulnerable.
“At a time where energy bills are on the rise, ensuring residents have access to affordable heat and energy is more important than ever, and the team’s hard work and assistance has made a huge contribution to this.”