Local charity helps over 1700 residents

The Trustees of the local Footprint Trust charity have praised their staff for assisting over 1,700 vulnerable ‘fuel poor’ Islanders, during the last year, through more effective use of energy in their homes. The recent Annual General Meeting of the charity also reported that a total of £114,000 had been saved by clients thanks to the expert guidance of staff, which also lead to huge reductions in CO2. In total some 340 households were visited. People were given tailored guidance and information on correct use of appliances and heating systems, grants for insulation and white goods, along with discounts on utilities and help with switching suppliers. Frontline worker training was provided to staff and volunteers from other organisations, to bring about greater understanding of fuel poverty on the Island. Monergy workshops were held in a number of venues giving people skills to cut their bills.

One of the many case studies was shared highlighting how *Claire had been assisted by the Trust.

“*Claire is a single parent of a young girl. Her privately rented accommodation has gas central heating but with a system boiler. The Electricity was on a prepayment meter, with debt being repaid at an unaffordable weekly rate. We spoke with the company, changed the rate and the tariff, and applied for the Warm Home Discount of £140.  The visit highlighted that the gas central heating was not being used much at all, with plug in electric heaters used instead, so we were able to explain the high costs involved and savings that could be made. We explained the gas central heating programmable controls, and how to make use of thermostatic radiator valves. In addition, the hot water tank was poorly lagged, and the loft hatch was being routinely left open. We explained the reasons to change this, to save money, and to be more comfortable in the home.

We provided a free hot water tank jacket. There was considerable debt on the gas account too, it was a credit meter but had not been read for a long time. It was in the wrong name and on a costly tariff. We negotiated a plan, to set up an affordable way forward, and put her on a cheaper tariff.”

Reported Laura Stichbury, the Assistant Manager of the Trust.

The charity already holds the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the MBE for charities, for their pioneering work in the community. This year the Trust won the 2020 Vulnerable Customer Support Campaigner of the Year accolade in the regional Energy Efficiency Awards.

The success of the charity’s work was however tinged with some sadness with the loss of their highly regarded colleague Helen Williams. Helen was the friendly voice giving guidance over the phone to our clients, and giving support and training to staff and sharing her many years of experience in her many caring roles. Helen came to work for the Trust following a long career in the private and public sectors. She brought her experience on green transport, working on school travel plans and encouraging people to explore their local environment through walking, via her Acorn Steps project. Having been a mum on low income she was well qualified to give practical guidance to young parents in a similar position struggling with energy bills. She put her vivacious and energetic personality into all of the projects she delivered and used her excellent people skills to encourage and support both team members and clients. Helen faced her cancer diagnosis with tenacity, humour and unblinking positivity. As she became more unwell, she trained others to take over her many roles within the charity. She gradually worked fewer hours until finally she was admitted to the hospice for the last time. She died in March 2020, aged 59.

The meeting thanked the Daisie Rich Trust and the town, parish and community councils which support the Trust’s work.  Wight Community Energy assisted with funding home energy visits, the People’s Postcode Trust contributed towards staff and other core costs. SSE Networks Resilient Communities Fund funding expanded work in remote areas of the Island effected by power outages and rural isolation. The Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme commenced funding fuel poverty prevention and relief through outreach, training and practical guidance. The Trustees also expressed thanks to the many individuals who have made donations which has helped fund extra help to many vulnerable local people, further assisted by the Hampshire & IW Community Foundation. Many other national charitable bodies also gave grants, which are listed in the annual accounts.

Anyone with concerns about their utility bills can contact The Footprint Trust by email info@footprint-trust.co.uk or by phone (01983) 822282.