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Norwich homes get free energy-saving help

PUBLISHED: 14:50 30 March 2010 | UPDATED: 09:15 02 July 2010

Brenda Arthur.

Brenda Arthur.

Tara Greaves

Thousands of families in some of the poorest parts of Norwich could be helped from the scourge of fuel poverty by a new partnership aimed at making homes warmer.

Thousands of families in some of the poorest parts of Norwich could be helped from the scourge of fuel poverty by a new partnership aimed at making homes warmer.

After a bitterly cold winter - and with more snow forecast this week - many people are dreading the thud of the heating bill landing on the doormat.

But, in a bid to ease the problem in the future, the city council has joined forces with Anglian Go Warm, a new scheme which aims to help 10,000 of the households most in need in the next year - with 2,000 city homes expected to receive free energy saving measures to bring down bills and cut carbon emissions.

Figures show that 4,000 people in the east of England died as a result of fuel poverty last winter, with the number expected to rise this year.

Paul Swanborough, private sector housing manager for the city council, said: “Fuel poverty is a real problem and it affects people of all ages. Although it was decreasing at one point, the recession and rising energy prices means that more people are struggling.

“We are looking to survey 10,000 houses in the first year, starting in the Mile Cross area next month .”

Privately-owned homes rather than council properties will be visited by door-step Go Warm assessors - three of whom have been recruited while seven more are still needed - in specific areas.

Those most in need will be offered free cavity wall insulation and loft insulation, which will cost £149 for non-priority households.

The city council has put £50,000 into the scheme which is being run under the leadership of Renewables East, the renewable energy agency for the east of England, based at the University of East Anglia.

James Beal , managing director of Renewables East and programme director of Anglian Go Warm, said the scheme had been trialled in St Neots before being rolled out.

“The East of England Development Agency (Eeda) has given us £280,000 over two years for the Go Warm scheme. We aim to visit 50,000 homes across the region and deliver energy saving and efficiency advice,” he said.

“This is a passion for me: it is a problem we have to solve.”

In Norwich, 15.7pc of the population were believed to be in fuel poverty in 2005 but this figure is thought to have risen in the last few years.

“Although there are other schemes out there, such as the government's Warm Front, this is the only one to target specific areas and go home by home, street by street to make a difference,” added Mr Beal.

The scheme comes as new figures show the government is going to miss its target to end fuel poverty among vulnerable households in England in 2010.

According to the Energy and Climate Change Committee, the target to end fuel poverty for all households in England by 2016 also looks difficult to hit.

Brenda Arthur, city council executive member for housing and adult learning, said: “Norwich City Council is committed to ensuring that properties in the city are as well insulated as possible to help alleviate fuel poverty and improve people's homes. That is why we are working with Renewables East to carry out 10,000 door to door energy checks to private homes. In this way we aim to reach those who are eligible for free insulation and will also be able to offer low cost insulation to others.

“The project will also offer work and training opportunities for young people without work as the home energy assessors will be recruited locally. This is very good news as we are keen to encourage employment opportunities.”

To prevent bogus callers, the Go Warm assessors will be wearing a uniform featuring the logo and they will have a special phone number which householders should call if they are concerned.

To find out more about the assessor roles visit Norwich Jobcentre Plus, Kiln House, Pottergate, call 01603 248700 or log on to www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk.

For more information visit www.gowarm.org, email julianmerrick@angliangowarm.org.uk or telephone 01733 564486.

People who live outside the Go Warm areas can still benefit from free or low-priced insulation offers by contacting Eastern-CRI on 0800 2321677 (Freephone) or online at http://www.easterncri.org/

What is fuel poverty?

Fuel poverty occurs when people need to spend more than 10pc of disposable income on fuel to achieve adequate levels of warmth in the home to maintain health and comfort.

It can be caused by:

Low income and/or debt.

Poor insulation standards.

Inefficient or expensive heating systems.

Under occupation.

Fuel prices.

Inefficient or expensive appliances.

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