2016-17 was a complex year politically, with elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly and Welsh Government, an additional snap election in NI in March and the Brexit vote. Despite these challenges we helped to instigate positive changes at a policy level, as well as secure cross-party recognition of the issue and support to tackle it. Over the year we published research reports, responded to consultations, and organised stakeholder events including our annual national and regional conferences. Our staff also participated in several energy company advisory groups to help shape their social obligations, enhance their services to fuel poor customers and develop effective partnerships with NEA members and other community groups.
NEA continued to provide the secretariat for the All-Party Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency Group (FPEEG), which drives action on fuel poverty within the Palace of Westminster. In January, FPEEG published a ‘Prospectus for universal affordable warmth’ which profiled the ways that people can be assisted so they are able to keep warm in their homes, with specific focus on how this could be supported at constituency level by MPs. MPs from all parties also took part in the Government’s inaugural annual debate on fuel poverty in England, supported by briefing information provided by NEA on behalf of FPEEG which was referenced extensively.
Our annual Warm Homes Campaign launched in Parliament on 29 November with a ‘not in her lifetime’ message and highlighted that, at the current rate of funding and delivery, a baby born today into a cold home would not see an end to fuel poverty in her lifetime, and furthermore could find her life chances significantly affected. The messaging clearly resonated with many people and we continue to see this used in briefings and press articles long after the campaign officially ended.
We ran a series of stakeholder engagement events, the NEA and NEA Cymru annual conferences, regional fuel poverty forums and championed excellence via training as well as award schemes like the Heat Heroes and Energy Impact Awards.
Some of the year’s highlights in terms of projects were the continuation of our Health and Innovation Programme; both the Warm and Healthy Homes Fund and the Technical Innovation Fund, Warm Minds, Mon&y Mentors, and the Community Action Partnership continued to develop our resource Community Action on Fuel Poverty, an online portal assisting frontline workers to prepare their fuel poverty plans in the community.
In 2016-17 we were pleased to be able to work with Smart Energy GB to begin delivery of Smart Energy GB in Communities. Launched by Smart Energy GB in 2015, it forms an integral part of the smart meter consumer campaign aimed at ensuring that all customers are able to access adequate information and support to realise the potential benefits of smart meters. The programme was led by NEA as part of a consortium of charities.
NEA commissioned 4Corners, a creative music and educational company to work with primary schools to help communicate some of NEA’s key messages. The result of the ‘Full of Energy’ programme has been the production, performances and video of ‘Hey Piggy Piggy’, a play for 5-8 year olds; and a songbook all about energy issues, for use in schools. ‘Hey Piggy Piggy’ uses the story of the three little pigs to demonstrate how energy efficiency, careful budgeting and teamwork can help keep the ‘wolf’ from the door. We provided additional funding for create live performances in a number of schools in the North East of England and were joined by Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council who enthusiastically joined in the singing and thanked the children, parents and musicians on our behalf.