With the festive holidays round the corner, local affordable warmth charity THAW Orkney is encouraging folk needing support to get in touch in good time if they need help to keep the heating on over Christmas and New Year.
Manager Robert Leslie said:
“If you are on a prepayment electricity meter don’t wait until you are running out before getting in touch for support – THAW Orkney staff are keen to avoid folk having their electricity going off completely, with all the disruption that entails. However, with all services busy right now processing energy support may take longer than usual.”
Funded by the British Gas Energy Trust, The Robertson Trust and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, THAW Orkney currently has six staff working a mix of full- and part-time hours. One of the BGET-funded projects is focused specifically on supporting folk in emergency accommodation throughout Orkney. Recruitment is also under way for another development and support officer to help meet rising demand for services.
Generous contributions have also come in over the past year from the Blue Door, Orkney Renewable Energy Ltd, Hammars Hill Energy Ltd, Orkney Renewable Energy Forum and others, for which everybody at THAW Orkney is grateful. St Andrews Primary School also recently donated the collection from their Harvest Thanksgiving services towards Cosy Home Packs ahead of what is already a busy winter.
Robert Leslie said:
“We’ve seen a significant increase in demand, with referrals more than doubling in the past couple of months.
“With electricity prices rising and energy companies disappearing as a result of the energy market crisis, switching has virtually disappeared as an option to make savings. The general advice in what is a fast-changing energy market, is that electricity customers should stick with their present suppliers, given that any available switching options are only likely to result in higher prices.
“With the price cap likely to rise again in April the issue of unsustainable electricity prices is unfortunately going to be with us long beyond this winter.
“We also recognise that, due to the rise in Covid-19 cases, and especially the faster spreading Omicron variant, folk are more likely to be working from home once again and incurring higher energy costs.
“In terms of financial support, THAW Orkney is a referral partner of the Fuel Bank Foundation, meaning staff are able to access funds for emergency electricity vouchers for folk on prepayment meters, and from the Fuel Bank Foundation’s heat fund to pay for oil or solid fuel.
“We are also a referral partner for the Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund, from which we were able to secure almost £25,000 for clients last March, helping pay off debt and giving them some breathing space on their energy bills. This is open again through to the end of March, so we will be working to help folk secure funding over the winter.”
With fewer choices for switching to cheaper tariffs, keeping an eye on electricity usage may be more important than ever. THAW Orkney is partnering with ReFLEX Orkney and may be able to fit an energy monitor in homes to help raise awareness of what is using the most electricity, and whether savings could be made.
Contacting energy suppliers to sort any issues can be difficult, and THAW Orkney is able to provide a third-party service to help clients with this.
Referrals to Warmworks for energy efficiency work is also done where appropriate. They deliver the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficient Scotland Area-Based Scheme and Warmer Homes Scotland programmes in Orkney.
THAW Orkney will also have Cosy Home Packs available again this winter, which contain useful items to help folk keep warm and save energy.
THAW Orkney will be closed on the Mondays and Tuesdays of 27th and 28th of December and 3rd and 4th January, and have a reduced service on the 29th, 30th and 31st December.