A period of growth
In 1986 the Government review of Supplementary Benefit Single Payments threatened to abolish the source of grant aid for draughtproofing. As a result of extensive campaigning by NEA during 1986 the Government announced a replacement scheme and established the Energy Grant in early 1987. By 1988 some 500,000 homes had benefited from energy efficiency improvements, and 420 community energy projects were in operation in the UK, employing over 8,000 people; the majority of project staff were employed through the Government’s Community Programme.
A major setback was encountered during 1988 when Employment Training replaced the Community Programme, with damaging results. The emphasis on training, the loss of a social welfare remit and difficulty in recruiting trainees resulted in the loss of a substantial number of projects. By the middle of 1989 the number of energy projects had declined to 196, largely because of the effects of Employment Training, with a corresponding drop in the number of homes assisted.
In an endeavour to remedy the adverse consequences of the introduction of Employment Training, NEA initiated a House of Commons Motion which was signed by more than 140 MPs. Included was John Wakeham MP, announcing his intention to introduce a new scheme of energy efficiency grants for low-income households to be independent of the Employment Training programme.
By 1986 – Energy Efficiency Year – the work of NEA and the community energy projects was being highlighted as a major achievement supported by Government.
“Community energy projects reach people who cannot be helped by any other means… I am committed to giving full support to maintaining and expanding the activity of the voluntary sector in this field.”
Alistair Goodlad MP, Energy Minister, 1985
In 1989 NEA established a series of special projects in Middlesbrough, Doncaster and East London. This initiative was inspired by a number of factors:
- There was Government money available for innovative community projects in inner-city areas
- Funding restrictions on the Community Programme and Employment Training had made it impossible to try out new ideas and measursa
It was an attempt to demonstrate that adding extra resources to Employment Training would improve training results and employability. Providing more wide-ranging and interesting work for participants e.g. work on community buildings, would improve their employability and motivation.
It gave NEA the freedom to try out some other actions that were considered important such as additional practical measures, higher-level training, in-depth energy advice and wider eligibility for grants.
A major new emphasis for NEA in 1989 was the development of certificated training courses leading to nationally recognised qualifications in energy efficiency work. Training and technical manuals, units of competence and guidance notes were produced to support certification, and 33 training and examination centres were established. By March 1990, more than 1100 people had successfully achieved national and industry recognised qualifications in domestic energy efficiency.