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Scheme helps older people manage money and cut fuel costs

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Scheme helps older people manage money and cut fuel costs

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Published by Craig Downs for Derwentside Homes Ltd in Housing and also in Communities, Environment

Older people in County Durham are saving money on their energy bills and being helped out of fuel poverty thanks to a scheme run by Prince Bishops Community Bank.

The not for profit bank, in partnership with energy advice specialist Tadea and  housing provider Derwentside Homes, is providing free advice on switching energy supplier and energy efficiency to anyone living in the county. People can also access benefits advice during one-hour home visits from an experienced advisor.

Now, nearly 18 months into the Managing Money Better scheme, which is funded by Comic Relief, more than 1,000 people have benefited from the home visits designed to help older people save money and manage their finances better.

Helping people switch energy supplier and access fuel grants has already saved hundreds of pensioners in the county more than £100,000. Meanwhile, welfare referrals have helped people access an average of £129.43 in benefit entitlements. Through Durham County Council’s Hotspots scheme, a number of people have also been helped to access free grants to have their central heating system replaced.

Vicky McCourt, New Business Development Manager at Derwentside Homes, said: “Fuel poverty is a major issue in England with around 2.2 million households spending more than 10% of their income to adequately heat their home. The Managing Money Better scheme has helped thousands of people in County Durham who are affected by this issue since it was set up in 2012.

“But there are thousands more people out there who could benefit and we are urging anyone to get in touch and book a home visit as soon as possible. The scheme provides free and independent advice which can help people get the best deal on their gas and electric bills, make their homes more energy efficient and access the benefits they are entitled to such as the winter fuel allowance.

“People can also get help setting up a Prince Bishops Community Bank account so they can take advantage of savings from paying their bills by direct debit.”

One resident who has benefited from the Managing Money Better Scheme is 49-year-old David Reed from Ebchester. After he was injured in a serious car accident six years ago he underwent several operations and was left wheelchair bound. His situation was made worse when his energy company overestimated his energy consumption because they failed to take meter readings.

He said: “I tried to reason with them but the bills just kept spiralling out of control. The reason they had not took meter readings was because the meter is quite inaccessible and you need a ladder and a torch to get to it. I told them this but each time the engineers came out without the equipment they needed. They came 15 times but couldn’t get a reading. It was starting to have a negative impact on my health and wellbeing and eventually I was referred for a home advice session by Tadea.

“The advice and support I have received from the advisor Lesley Grange meant I was able to finally get everything sorted. Tadea helped me get over £2,000 of debt cleared because the energy company had failed to meet its legal requirements to read the meter. I can’t thank them enough for the help they have given me. And I am now paying £25 per week for my gas and electric compared to £50 per week a few years ago.”

Advice is provided by specialist advisers, Tadea. Please visit www.tadea-uk.com/managingmoneybetter or call freephone 0800 124 4320 for more information.

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