To mark Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, Michelle Melvin, from Riverside’s Affordable Warmth Service, explains how she helped a tenant whose faulty gas meter left her bereft of hope
I received a referral from a housing officer asking for affordable warmth help as she was struggling to gain access to a property in Liverpool to carry out the annual gas safety check.
I managed to get in touch with *Sue, the tenant, and explained how our Affordable Warmth Service could help get the gas reconnected to her home. I was able to develop a relationship of trust and understand her situation.
She had been off gas for a while, and as a result didn’t have hot running water to wash up and central heating to keep her affordably warm. She was boiling the kettle for hot water and could only heat one room at a time using a costly electric fan heater to keep warm. She was on Universal Credit, and being cold, without hot water every day, was a real struggle for her.
Sue has severe anxiety and depression, which makes it difficult for her to resolve complex problems. She had a problem with her gas meter and had tried to sort it out with her energy company, but hanging on the phone for hours on end had eaten up all her mobile phone credit, and she’d eventually given up all hope of being able to resolve the problem. This resulted in having no gas supply, as she thought she had no other choice.
Sue’s gas meter was still accruing a standing charge to the gas company, so the debt was mounting up. This was a further barrier to restoring her gas supply, and being on a low income meant that she didn’t have any savings to pay off the debt.
I contacted the energy supplier and arranged for a new gas meter to be fitted that day, and negotiated with them to clear most of the debt as the old meter was faulty.
I worked with Riverside’s gas compliance team to arrange for the annual gas safety check to be carried out, along with the boiler being serviced.
“Hanging on the phone for hours on end had eaten up all her mobile phone credit, and she’d eventually given up all hope of being able to resolve the problem”
Finally, the gas supply was back on, and Sue is able to heat her home at an affordable cost. I showed her how to use the central heating controls along with the controls on her boiler, radiators, room thermostat, and timer to efficiently heat her home so that the money she puts on her gas meter isn’t wasted.
Next, I helped her apply for £140 warm home discount rebate on her electric bill.
I also registered her on the priority services register with her gas, electric, and water suppliers so that she will now be notified of any faults or emergency repairs being carried out in the area.
I provided her with energy efficiency advice and checked that she was on the cheapest energy tariffs.
It was lovely to hear Sue say to me: “Having my gas reconnected has absolutely changed my life, and it’s amazing how long my home stays warm using the central heating system.”
Riverside is one of a number of housing associations that has signed up to a campaign to end fuel poverty, as it is estimated that more than three million UK households are struggling with fuel bills and unable to live in a warm home.
*Name of tenant has been changed
Image: Michelle Melvin, Affordable Warmth officer, Riverside
Are you a social housing professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.