Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.
That’s the countdown to the end of British Summer Time, where clocks get turned back an hour and the serious business of trying to stay warm begins in earnest.
The cold seeps insidiously into your bones and the warmth of the sun’s rays the previous summer quickly becomes the stuff of legend. You start to wonder if you will ever wear any less than three layers of clothing ever again in your life. Even the most energy conscious amongst us finally yield to Jack Frost’s insistence that his presence be acknowledged and reach for the thermostat.
I’m just going to throw this out there: I’m not a big fan of winter. Those that know me well will know that I tend to rarely have anything positive to say about this particular season. Snowball fights? Forget it. Sledging? Not interested. Icy footpaths? Don’t even go there. It always comes back to the same thing: It’s. Too. Cold.
Fuel poverty ‘totally unacceptable’
Yet, for all my superficial complaints about winter, I know that I’m fortunate as I don’t live in fuel poverty. For the 6.5 million people in the UK currently living with fuel poverty, where they can’t afford to keep their homes adequately heated, winter can be a very difficult time indeed. In fact, in the most extreme cases some people are faced with the stark choice of whether to heat their homes or buy food to eat.
Fuel poverty affects a wide range of people, although families with children and those of retirement age living in private rented accommodation are particularly vulnerable. The effects can be fatal, with the Office for National Statistics reporting 30,000 ‘excess winter deaths’ in England and Wales last year.
While I believe it is totally unacceptable that this could happen in the UK in the 21st century, my contribution to this debate isn’t about government policy or the morality of ever-increasing energy prices. There are others far better qualified than me to comment on those issues after all.
Providing support to take control of rising energy bills
No, I want to talk to you about my grandmother. You see, I’m worried that as things stand she has little or no control over her energy bills. I’m concerned that she won’t be able to navigate her way through the plethora of energy efficiency options put forward by energy companies. I’m anxious that she would rather put on another jumper than turn the heating on and risk running up a fuel bill that she won’t be able to afford to pay.
I just want someone to help my gran to take control of her energy bills so she can keep warm, stay well and save money this winter.
That’s why I’m pleased that a partnership of major businesses and charities, including Groundwork, got together today to launch the Big Energy Vision – a campaign to help people like my gran feel empowered to do just that - by using clear, simple and consistent messaging about the things she can do to take action.
The campaign is being launched during Big Energy Saving Week following new research showing that energy bills are the top financial concern for households but that two thirds of people feel that there’s very little or nothing they can do about them. It aims to counter the frustration, confusion and distrust that currently dominates by highlighting positive, practical actions that people can take. From smart meters and digital technology, to installing insulation and buying efficient appliances, from washing at 30°C to switching tariffs, the partnership will present a coherent picture of the ways in which households can ‘use less, waste less and pay less’.
Groundwork will be using the ‘energy control’ message as part of our Green Doctor service, which provides tailored energy efficiency advice to over 30,500 homes each year. We’ll also be using it as part of our own public outreach campaign which we’ll be launching soon, which will aim to encourage more businesses and housing associations to work creatively with us to support those in need to take greater control of energy in their home. More on that soon.
The clocks go back an hour on Sunday, which will mean that winter will finally be upon us. For some of us this means so much more than superficial seasonal annoyances and they need urgent support so they are able to keep warm and well when the temperature plummets.
Time is running out.
Post by Garry Campbell, Groundwork UK