This was the 2nd AGM for THAW held in the Kirkwall Town hall June 15 @19.00.
THAW was set up in order to address the very high level of Fuel Poverty in Orkney. Fuel Poverty is defined as when 10% of income is spent on heating, severe Fuel Poverty is where 20% is spent on heating. Orkney unfortunately tops both leagues.
There are many reasons for Fuel Poverty such as “hard to heat” houses, antiquated/inefficient heating systems — there is quite a list. One of these is a reluctance on the part of the elderly to claim the benefits they are entitled to even if they know they exist. This one area where THAW can be a big help by going into folks houses and assessing what is needed with the householders.
It was an impressively few weeks from the appointment of the first member of staff to the first referral, and then a couple of months for the first new boiler to be installed.
The first keynote speaker was Elaine Morrison an Independent Consultant who has been researching THAW and its “Pipeline Project since its inception in December 2015.
Interim results on the 15-month THAW Orkney Pipeline Partnership, run with Orkney Care & Repair (OC&R) and Orkney Citizens Advice Bureau (OCAB), indicate the benefits to the islands of the project represent £5.49 for every £1 invested. It shows that the partnership, set up with funding from the British Gas Energy Trust and Energy Action Scotland, has been successful in enabling wider take-up of energy efficiency measures than had it not existed.
Elaine, who described the Orkney Pipeline Partnership as the best project she had come across in 23 years of working in the fuel poverty field, said:
“Comments from clients and organisations have drawn particular attention to the benefits of a hand-holding service, having the personal support to navigate through the complex world of national energy efficiency programmes. The funding THAW was able to give unblocked the way for many people.”
“People’s lives have been improved. Some of this may have happened anyway, but mostly it has been the combination of enabling funding, hand holding and joining of dots that has made it happen.”
The second speaker was Di Alexander who has been working in this area in Scotland since at least 1988. Di Alexander, who chaired the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force that has made a series of recommendations to the Scottish Government, was guest speaker.
Di, who is also the chairman of the Highlands & Islands Housing Associations Affordable Warmth Group, outlined how the task force’s brief had been to come up with an action plan to make it significantly easier and more affordable for people living in rural and remote Scotland to keep their homes warm, and to help shape the further development of fuel poverty policy and energy efficiency programmes.
The task force, he explained, had identified 21 rural dimensions to fuel poverty, including disposable income levels, fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty levels (spending over 10% and over 20% to heat homes adequately), hard-to-heat house types, lack of mains gas, higher electricity consumption, and a number of electricity market challenges emanating from UK Government policy.
“There are challenging times ahead for those of us involved in tackling fuel poverty and looking to provide affordable warmth, and the health benefits that this brings, to households across rural Scotland. I am therefore heartened that the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance, has recognised – to quote her – that ‘more of the same won’t do’ in terms of rural fuel poverty policy.”
“There are lessons to be learned in this respect from the valuable work carried out by THAW, which is similar to the ‘energy carer’ pilot that the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force proposed to the Scottish Government. THAW’s people-centred approach has obviously borne fruit, and supports our view on consumer engagement and support, and vulnerability and health care. We must continue to press for this level of engagement with vulnerable households to become the norm.”
Both speakers were fulsome in their approval and support for THAW’s work.
Their presentations are available in full on the THAW website. (link at the end of this article). However a couple of snippets:- every £1 put into Fuel Poverty saves the NHS 42p in not having to treat people made ill by low temperatures at home. With all the effort and Finance being put into this area one would expect fuel poverty to be declining. It isn’t its flat lining.
THAW Orkney chair, Robert Leslie, welcomed the Social Return on Investment figures, and the fact that the Orkney Pipeline Partnership had enabled over £600,000 of works to go ahead in the islands, including helping several installations by national energy efficiency programmes including Warmer Homes Scotland, run by Warmworks, and the HEEPS:ABS scheme, run by Firefly Energi.
Robert Leslie said:
“When folk that have been helped respond with comments such as ‘This will be our first warm Christmas we will have had in years, thank you from the bottom of my heart,’ you know that you are making a difference.”
“The challenges remain immense, especially on the back of recent electricity price rises, including dominant local supplier SSE’s 14.9% hike, which came into effect at the end of April. THAW will have to redouble its efforts, along with its partners, to reach as many folk as possible, and to ensure that its funding is utilised for the most vulnerable households identified.”
It is not difficult to see the elephant in the room here. The British Isles has the lowest old age pension in Europe despite it being one of the richest in Europe. In real terms that meager pension has been eroded plus the proposed elimination of the Winter Fuel payments will only exacerbate the situation.
Reporter: Nick Morrison
You can view the THAW AGM presentation on their site click here