At NEA we put vulnerable people first. We believe that we should be providing expert insight into supporting those who need it and building capacity and skills in the sector. To do that we need decision-makers to help us to put those vulnerable people at the heart of policy-making, shaping a better future for those who cannot afford to live in a warm and safe home.
Funding from Warm Home Discount Industry Initiatives and other schemes enabled us to provide a suite of support services that included income maximisation checks, fuel debt advice, applications to crisis funds, and support to access free or reduced-cost measures such as gas central heating.
Our policy and advocacy work put the needs of vulnerable energy consumers at the heart of policy decisions. In 2018-19 NEA’s work helped ensure the following things happened in the policy landscape:
The new Energy Company Obligation (ECO3), where suppliers are required to install energy efficiency and heating measures in homes came into force and we helped to ensure that private landlords invest their own money to improve the least efficient rented homes, through the new Private Rented Sector Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (PRS MEES). We established a cross-departmental working group on fuel poverty, health and housing; efforts led to Ofgem updating their Consumer Vulnerability Strategy, which includes a commitment to create a consistent approach to assessing distributional impacts of policies, ensuring the industry better supports consumers who are at risk of self-disconnecting and decreasing the number of self-disconnections.
Ofgem also committed to delivering a new vulnerability licence condition for Gas Distribution companies, meaning more consistent treatment of customers. The Fuel Poor Network Extension Scheme was also continued to 2026 providing vital assistance to off-gas fuel poor households connecting to the grid, saving them hundreds of pounds per year in heating costs.
In Northern Ireland we continued to work across all political parties to gain traction on our Fuel Poverty Coalition’s (FPC) five key calls. Our Energy Justice Campaign had continued success with the announcement of a fourth extension to The Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP) until March 2022 bringing £6.5m per annum for fuel-poor homes.
In Wales, via collaborative working through the Cross-Party Group on Fuel poverty and Energy Efficiency we helped to secure Ministerial agreement for a new fuel poverty plan for Wales, which would improve the lives of fuel-poor households.
We started working with Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) on an innovative programme which aims to end water poverty by 2030. The programme aims to establish an industry-acknowledged definition of water poverty and understand the links between water and fuel poverty. It will also explore regional and national partnerships and projects to help customers struggling with their utility bills.
We worked in partnership with local agencies to help build resilient communities, where fuel poverty is considered a strategic priority and advice workers are skilled in assisting people struggling to afford their energy bills.
We also launched new courses and continued to provide qualifications, training courses, e-learning and educational resources.
We ran a large number of projects including Keeping Warm and Healthy which educates some of the most vulnerable families with young children on solutions to fuel poverty and fuel debt, linking energy use with healthy cooking and eating. In Northern Ireland the Northern Exposure project continued in its 11th year providing help to tackle the high levels of fuel poverty found in Belfast. The comprehensive referral network is an established framework of partnerships involving housing, health and social care services working towards a common goal.
We also continued our project Forces for Warmth, working with the Royal British Legion and other organisations supporting veterans to provide face-to-face advice to service and ex-service personnel. A crisis fund was particularly vital in providing emergency credit for prepayment meters, as well as other goods.