City Council creates Energy Advice Officer role to help Council Tenants save energy

Organisations involved:

Oxford City Council and the Citizens Advice Bureau

Overview:

The Council employs two energy advice officers who visit social housing tenants to help them keep their energy bills as low as possible.  For two years, there was also a complimentary financial advice service carried out by Citizens Advice Bureau Oxford

Background:

Fuel poverty can be defined as where people are struggling to afford to heat their homes to a reasonable temperature – it is caused by a combination of high energy costs, low income and poor energy efficiency of the home.  Council tenants are responsible for their  own energy bills and tenants on lower incomes  are naturally at risk.

The Council has a strong commitment to reducing fuel poverty in the city, particularly in its own housing.  This was supported by an Oxford Standard consultation on tenants’ priorities and concerns as it showed that they had increasing concern about energy costs and fuel poverty.  They also indicated being visited in their home was a preference.

To meet this commitment, the Council recruited two energy advice officers to visit tenants in their homes.

Solution: 

 

The Energy Advice Officers aim to visit every Council home to advise on the following:

  • Energy saving behaviour – how can tenants save energy in small ways such as turning things off, understanding their heating system better etc
  • Energy saving measures in the building – referrals for boiler upgrades and heating controls, insulating the loft and draught proofing can all make a difference
  • Energy bills – support with switching tariffs, and securing financial benefits such as the Warm Homes Discount

They are also supporting the tower blocks refurbishment project, advising tenants on meter and tariff changes and engaging with heating upgrades as appropriate.

Outcomes and benefits delivered:

Over the two year period the Energy Advice Officer project has

  • Visited or attempted to visit over 50% of the Council’s housing tenants
  • Supported these tenants financially with yearly savings of around £133,021
  • Made nearly 6000 recommendations, many that will yield further results that are unmeasurable, but positive
  • Amongst others, 23 internal referrals to tenancy managers have been made and 39 to the Tenancy Sustainment team

At project end the Citizens Advice Bureau dedicated service had:

  • Received 147 referrals overall.
  • 50 clients received face to face advice, 38 in the home and 17 by telephone
  • Advised on a total debt of £229,248, made £3,572 energy savings for clients
  • Supported tenants to make total  income gains £18,263

Lessons learned/conclusion: 

In an evaluation survey, 210 responses were received from 1800 surveys, a response rate of 12%.  There was a generally positive response for the service related questions too.  88% found the visit excellent or good, and 88% also found that the visit resolved their energy issues.   Responses also indicated that many tenants are changing their simple behaviours in the home to make modest energy savings which keep waste to a minimum although this was less marked.  Further support on building based work and financial support was requested and this is being integrated into the current programme of work for the officers.

Because of the strong proven value of this project to tenants, the Council hopes to continue this project beyond its original finish date of April 2018.

Link for further info:

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20167/your_home_and_estate/1114/how_we_can_help_council_tenants_lower_their_energy_billsContact

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/energygrants

Check out other funding opportunities on our LCO Funding page

 

Sign up for the monthly Low Carbon Oxford newslettersubscribe