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Energy Advisors Are Heat Heroes

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Energy Advisors Are Heat Heroes

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Published by Andrew Young for South Tyneside Homes in Housing and also in Communities

Award winners – Community Energy Advisors, Sarah Collins (right) and Sharon Smith (left) have been helping tenants to save money on their home energy bills. Award winners – Community Energy Advisors, Sarah Collins (right) and Sharon Smith (left) have been helping tenants to save money on their home energy bills.

Two Council tenants from South Tyneside have been recognised nationally for their work to help tackle the issue of fuel poverty in the Borough.

Sharon Smith and Sarah Collins were named as two of the nations’ Heat Heroes through an awards scheme organised by fuel poverty charity NEA and ScottishPower. The Heat Heroes Awards Scheme aims to recognise individuals who go ‘above and beyond’ to help people who are suffering from the effects of fuel poverty and struggling to heat their homes.

Over the past year, they have been part of a pilot scheme that was developed by Collette Benton, Community Entrepreneur for the Tyne Gateway Trust. After experiencing fuel poverty herself, she wanted to set up a project that could help others in a similar situation.

The Trust worked in partnership with South Tyneside Homes to recruit Sharon and Sarah as Community Energy Advisors. In their role, they have been offering other tenants guidance on how to use their home heating systems efficiently, as well as advising them on the most appropriate energy tariffs and payment methods to suit their needs.

Through their work they have helped people across the borough to save an average of £30 per month on their home energy bills. In a recent case, a tenant was also able to clear more than £500 of fuel debt thanks to the support of advisors.

Speaking after the award win, Sharon said: “I was over the moon when I found out that we had   won the award and when we were presented with the award it was an experience in itself. It is very rewarding to be able to help people and deal with fuel companies on their behalf.”

Sarah added: “It is fantastic to be recognised for the work we do as this spreads the word about the help we can offer other people who are on or below the fuel poverty line.  Any money we help people to save can then be spent on their families, instead of on fuel bills.”

Funding for the scheme has been provided by the Future Jobs Fund and North East Procurement (NEP).

Mark Whittle, Director of Investment at South Tyneside Homes, said: “We are committed to measures that improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel bills, so naturally we are thrilled that the Energy Advisors are helping to bring about real financial benefits for tenants on a number of estates.

“Sarah and Sharon should be extremely proud of their achievements over the last year and it is fantastic to see that they are being recognised nationally for all of their hard work.”

Statistics show that around 24% of households in South Tyneside are fuel poor. These households have to choose between paying for gas and electricity or going without other essentials, such as food.

Maria Wardrobe, Director of External Affairs at NEA, said: “Community engagement is vital to the success of the Coalition’s challenging plans and these individuals have demonstrated how they have helped vulnerable people achieve more affordable energy bills, congratulations to all of the winners.”

Neil Clitheroe, CEO of ScottishPower Retail and Generation, added: “ScottishPower was delighted to support the Heat Heroes campaign to recognise the work that goes on day to day within communities across the UK. The significant contribution made by individuals like Sarah and Sharon is vital to ensure help gets to those people most in need.”

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