NEA Northern Exposure Case Study

Elizabeth’s Story

Referral Pathway:

As part of our Northern Exposure Project, funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA), we deliver fuel poverty & energy awareness sessions to health professionals and are receiving referrals from them as a result.

Elizabeth was referred to NEA by an Occupational Therapist, she was well known within the health care system but this particular need could not be met by them; it was because of Northern Exposure and its links with a range of agencies that we were able to provide the help she needed.

Identifying Elizabeth’s Need:

Elizabeth privately rents an old solid brick house so therefore no cavity wall insulation can be installed; the loft had been converted and so there is no possible loft insulation.  She had an old Oil Fired Central Heating (OFCH) system and she had only ever put oil in a couple of times in the several years she has been living there.  She uses an electric fire in the living room, the nature of which could not be moved easily from room to room.  She was reluctant to add an additional electric fire to an upstairs room as her electric bills were very high from having to use the one downstairs and the immersion heater for hot water.

On point of survey it was discovered that the OFCH system was beyond economic repair, it was faulty and leaking.  St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) had given Elizabeth 300 litres of oil and it had not lasted very long which was a big concern however the discovery that the system was faulty explained this.  The oil provided had been wasted and leaked.

Apart from the issue of having a faulty system; it was also very difficult for Elizabeth to bulk buy oil, Elizabeth is on a very low income of less than £4,000 per annum, and a benefit entitlement check has shown she cannot get an increase at this time.  Therefore, it was clear that converting the home to Natural Gas whereby she could pay for her heating weekly via a prepayment meter would be very beneficial to her.

Elizabeth has a range of health issues and NEA visited her several times to understand her needs.  The home was sitting at 12 degrees on the temperature cards that were left around the home and didn’t ever increase from this.  There was a real concern for her health given the impact a cold home can have on physical and mental health.

Referrals and Support Given:

Affordable Warmth would have been the first pathway considered for Elizabeth, however, the landlord was sceptical of using a grant programme and he stated he believed that when going through government grant schemes, the price maybe inflated by the contractors undertaking the work.  He also wasn’t forthcoming to say he would pay the 50% of the total costs that he would need to do under the Affordable Warmth Programme.

The Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP) was therefore the best way forward to meet Elizabeth’s need and for immediate assistance.  NEA referred Elizabeth to Fusion Heating who manage a current NISEP scheme and they were very responsive to this need and turned the conversion from oil to gas around in less than two weeks.  Phoenix Natural Gas were also very supportive of working to get this conversion completed as quickly as possible.

NEA liaised with SVP and they were able to provide £40 for an electricity top up.  They were also able to supply Elizabeth with a new mattress which had been identified by the Occupational Therapist as causing further problems to her physical health.

NEA also applied to Bryson Charitable Group for a hardship fund and initially had applied for a grant to pay for 300 litres of oil; however, once we discovered the oil system couldn’t be used at all, they were able to give Elizabeth £120 for an electricity top up.  This allowed Elizabeth to use her electric heater without worrying about the cost.

NEA also delivered a Winter Warmth Pack to Elizabeth and referred her for a home safety check via Belfast City Council and they also then arranged a fire safety check.

Elizabeth, as you can imagine, has been overwhelmed with the support she has been given.

“I didn’t even know where to go to get help, that there was even any help out there for me.  I am more peaceful now, I can get a decent night’s sleep; before I dreaded the winter months coming but now I can sit up at night and am nice and warm and feel comfortable.”

This case study highlights the importance of partnership working and through this the help that Northern Exposure can provide to householders living in Fuel Poverty.  It is also significant in showcasing what the NISEP can deliver to assisting householders in fuel poverty and filling in gaps from other Fuel Poverty programmes.

For further information please contact NEA’s Project Coordinator Angela Gracey-Roger on 028 9023 9909 or by email to Angela.Gracey-Roger@nea.org.uk.

Published on 28-02-2018
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