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NEA CYMRU FUEL DEBT BULLETIN Welcome to the Fuel Debt Advice Bulletin

Welcome to the first edition of the quarterly NEA Cymru Fuel Debt Bulletin, which is part of a project Assisting Fuel Poor Communities in Wales (see below for further detail). As more and more households (it is estimated that 400,000 households in Wales are in fuel poverty) feel the impact of increasing fuel prices over the last few years and experiencing the effects of the austerity measures, public spending cuts and welfare reform, the provision of good quality in-depth fuel debt advice is more in need than ever. From NEAs previous work into fuel debt advice, it has been identified that there is often no support network available for frontline advisors dealing specifically with fuel debt. This can leave advisors, who are dealing with very complex, emotive issues, feeling isolated and uninformed. NEAs quarterly bulletin will cover the latest news, information and issues that affect the provision of fuel debt advice nationally and Wales. Assisting Fuel Poor Communities Energy Bill Revolution The Big Switch Welfare Reform Act 2012 A word from our Sponsor NEA Update

Assisting Fuel Poor Communities in Wales

NEA Cymru has received sponsorship from Scottish and Southern Energy plc to roll out a project in Wales to assist fuel poor communities in Wales. From NEAs previous work into fuel debt advice, it has been identified that there is often no support network available for frontline advisors dealing

specifically with fuel debt. This can leave advisors, who are often dealing with very complex, emotive issues, feeling isolated and uninformed. The aim of the project is for NEA to establish an Advice Agency Network in Wales to provide support, guidance and mentoring to agency staff that regularly

provide fuel debt / energy bill advice. The project will include: Delivery of a tailored Fuel Debt Advice Training course for Wales to incorporate the differences in policy and the different schemes available through the devolved administration

An Advice Agency Network, which will consist of meetings, newsletter updates and mentoring advice and support for participating agencies. NEA is hoping to work / link in with the established Financial Capability network in Wales.

For further information about the project, please contact Jimmy Pugh at jimmy.pugh@nea.org.uk

NEAs one day Fuel Debt Advice Training Course is an ideal introduction for advice workers involved with clients who are in fuel debt or for the more experienced advisor as a structured update. The training course raises awareness and aims to give participants a clearer understanding of the pathways involved in resolving fuel debt. NEA is currently identifying venues and dates for the Fuel Debt Training Courses which will be released in the near future. To register initial interest please contact: Lynsey.thompson@nea.org.uk

Energy Bill Revolution


Around 7 million UK households are currently estimated to be living in fuel poverty,that is they are unable to afford to heat their homes to a level adequate for g good health and well-being. The Energy Bill Revolution is a public campaign, supported by an alliance of organisations, calling for warm homes and lower energy bills. They are asking the Government to use the money it gets from carbon taxes to make the UKs homes super-energy efficient. The aim of the campaign is to drive down energy bills, help end fuel poverty, help tackle child poverty, create jobs, improve health and reduce carbon emissions. The campaign believes if the Government recycled its carbon revenue (European Emissions

Trading Scheme & Carbon Floor Price) back to households, it could provide billions of pounds to help insulate the UKs homes. The benefits could be immense it could bring 9 out of 10 homes

out of fuel poverty, lower peoples bills, cut carbon emissions AND create jobs. For more information on the Energy Bill Revolution go to www.energybillrevolution.org

The Big Switch


Which? and online campaigning community 38 Degrees are working together on The Big Switch to get a better deal for consumers on energy bills. The Big Switch aims to make it easy for consumers to switch to a better energy deal - and save money on gas and electricity bills. Once it is known how many people are interested in switching, they are likely to hold a reverse auction where energy companies are invited to put forward their lowest price per kilowatt of electricity and cubic meter of gas. They cannot guarantee to secure a deal, but the more people who sign up, the better their bargaining power. If a good deal is secured they will offer it to everyone signed up. Help switching to the new deal will be provided So, using the power of thousands of consumers, they will negotiate with energy suppliers and seek to secure a market-leading energy deal and help people make the switch. There were more than 50,000 people signed up to The Big Switch within the first 48 hours, and you can sign up until 31 March. For more information on The Big Switch go to: http://www.which.co.uken ergy/savingmoney/guides/the-bigswitch-explained

Welfare Reform Act 2012


It is well known that three major factors causing fuel poverty / fuel debt is low household income, high energy prices and poor energy efficiency of homes. One of the main things that help in reducing fuel debt is the maximising of incomes. However with measures introduced during 2011 and further measures to be

introduced in 2012 under the Welfare Reform Act 2012 which received Royal Assent on the 8th March 2012 maximising income may become more difficult in the future. In this article an overview of changes to the benefit system in 2011 / 2012 will be provided and identify particular areas of concern. The Bill makes significant changes to the benefits system which includes: Restricting Housing Benefit (HB) entitlement for social housing tenants whose accommodation is larger than they need. Caps the amount of benefit income that can be claimed by households. Abolishes Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and

introduces the Personal Independence Payment Limits the payment of contributory Employment Support Allowance (ESA) to 12 months. Increasing the Working Tax Credit (WTC) working hours requirement for working couples from 16 hours to 24 hours. WTC and CTC backdating reduced to one month. Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates will be increased in line with the Consumer Price Index instead of the market rents thereby losing the connection with actual rents.

Energy market major switch off - Welsh Consumers


In a recent research report published by Consumer Focus Wales (18th January 2012) showed a majority of consumers in Wales are completely switched off from the energy market and missing out on savings. It has been shown that Wales has some of the lowest levels of switching energy supplier in Great Britain. Lindsey Kearton, energy expert at Consumer Focus Wales, said: As energy bills have escalated over the last year, with the average annual fuel bill now over 1,200, it has become more important than ever that consumers look for the best possible deal for their circumstances. Yet despite the rising cost of energy, most consumers in Wales are missing out on savings which could amount to

hundreds of pounds a year. More than two in every five Welsh consumers have never switched their energy supplier. Many of those who have switched have done so just once, switching from separate gas and electricity suppliers to a dual fuel deal. That means as many as eight out of ten households in Wales could be paying more than they need to heat their homes. All the messages from the regulator suggest that consumers get the best

deal by switching supplier regularly. This keeps the market active and encourages suppliers to compete. Yet a clear majority of consumers in Wales are completely switched off by the prospect of switching. Just one in eight households are regular switchers, changing every year or two in order to keep their costs down. To read the full findings of the report go to: http://www.consumerfocus .org.uk/wales/files/2012/0 1/Switched-off-EnglishWEB.pdf

A Word from our Sponsor. Vulnerable customers


We can offer free extra help and advice for you if you're elderly, disabled or have special medical needs. Careline is a free priority service (telephone number 0800 300 111) that includes a team of specially trained advisers and specialist services for registered customers. You can find out more about the Warm Home Discount scheme, aimed at helping low income, vulnerable customers with fuel costs We've got lots of helpful advice to keep you and your home warm and safe. There's also information on grants to help insulate your home.

And we have advice for you if you would find it helpful to use appliances which are designed to

help make everyday tasks easier for those less mobile

NEA Update
Reports
NEA monitors relevant research reports and below is a list of published reports you may find of interest; http://www.barnardos.org.uk/pricedoutreport.pdf - a report on the impact of fuel poverty on families living on low incomes NEA's Green Deal and ECO Consultation Response to DECC. January 2012. http://www.consumerfocus.org.uk/files/2012/03/Off-grid-fuels.pdf Off-grid fuels An investigation of the off-grid energy market. If you do not wish to receive future editions of the Fuel Debt Advice Bulletin, please let us know by emailing us at info@nea.org.uk NEA is an independent charity reg. no. 290511. Company limited by guarantee. Registered in England no. 1853927. Registered office: 6th Floor (Elswick), West One, Forth Banks, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3PA Tel: 0191 261 5677 Fax: 0191 261 6496 Email: info@nea.org.uk Web: http://www.nea.org.uk