When Eve Lockton-Goddard came into role as Home Energy Officer back in 2020, Thanet District Council didn’t have any energy advice provision and hadn’t been involved in any available energy schemes.  Not unusual in local councils. The problem was that with the highest volumes of fuel poverty in the South East, Thanet District Council struggled to achieve its Net Zero and Affordable Warmth targets. With Covid making living standards more challenging, and the energy crisis looming, residents were in greater need of support than ever before. 

It fell into the capable hands of Eve to put together a solution. Her challenge: to both utilise the funds already available, but also directly help households to upgrade their homes to make them fit for affordable warmth.

The perfect storm

“There was a perfect storm brewing as I came into my role,” she says, “and then Covid happened. Lots of people’s jobs were impacted causing loss of income. Then straight after that, the energy crisis hit”.

A perfect storm indeed. 

As a direct response to this, Eve set about putting together a project offering advice and referral service to Thanet’s residents.

How Eve’s project works

Eve is inundated with residents needing advice and support with their energy. No need for marketing, she says, no need to go out and look for these people. “The planet’s doing that for me,” she says, “referrals are just coming through!”.

Eve will typically speak to her client over the phone about how they’re using their energy and what challenges they face day-to-day.  She then takes a snapshot of the resident’s housing situation and their household income and then asks herself, what would she do if she was in this position? 

It’s at this point that Eve takes a look at her long list of agencies she can call to refer the person in question. One of those agencies is Green Doctor. 

Thanet District Council and Green Doctor: A symbiotic relationship

Typically two types of people will come to Eve for support. 

First, there’s the crisis call. Take Sue for example.

Sue referred herself to Thanet District Council because she was struggling to heat her home. On a prepayment meter, she was using plug-in heaters to keep warm, costing her a small fortune. When Sue got in touch with Thanet District Council, she was at her wit’s end. 

Eve jumped on it straight away: Sue was offered an initial advice session where it was discovered that her boiler was broken and that she was trying to support herself on an impossibly low income. 

Eve then referred Sue to Green Doctor who gave her some in-depth advice, explained the £150 Warm Home Discount and showed her how to get onto the Priority Service Register. Green Doctor also helped Sue to receive Crisis Fund payments which covered batteries for her stairlift, food vouchers and help with her energy bills. Green Doctor also helped her apply for government funding for insulation and heating controls and for a grant for a new boiler. 

The second type of resident is someone a bit like Pete, not currently in crisis but looking for some extra help to manage their energy bills, especially in recent months since the fuel crisis has seen bills skyrocket. Pete had an uninsulated home, broken boiler, be on the wrong energy tariff, and not be aware of the discounts and grants available to them. 

In this instance, the referral worked the other way around. After providing Pete with energy advice, Green Doctor referred Pete to Thanet District Council for more support with his home insulation. 

Together, Green Doctor and Thanet District Council helped Pete to access the Green Home Grant for loft and wall insulation, the council’s grants for boiler replacements and roof repairs, and the Household Support Fund to help with food. 

The impact of Green Doctor in Thanet

These two cases are typical of the way in which Green Doctor and local councils work together. 

Green Doctor provides residents in-depth energy advice, how to manage energy debt, how to change energy supplier and tariff, and how to access the appropriate financial support. They can also provide residents with bolster-freebies such as low-energy lightbulbs or timers to help manage heating costs. 

Meanwhile, local councils help residents access a whole range of other support services they need and also help with crisis funding for food and fuel items. Crucially, Green Doctor will refer residents to local councils to install the insulation into their roofs and walls and provide a new boiler if needed. 

Together, Green Doctor and Thanet District Council work in concert to address both the symptoms and the causes of fuel poverty in local communities and make a real difference to residents. 

Not only do their separate expertise complement each other, but together they identify any number of extraneous problems residents may be facing, including mental or physical health issues, general lack of income and savings, and refer them to the relevant services.

There’s also a big gap in knowledge about domestic energy advice in Thanet, which is now entirely filled by Green Doctor. 

As such, Thanet District Council now has a top-notch advice service to offer residents who are both in crisis and who are just about managing to survive in the fuel crisis. 

The challenge: Joining the dots

Where Green Doctor works so effectively with local councils, is that they fill in the gaps that councils cannot fill. Their in-depth energy advice is one of these things. In the case of Thanet District Council where advice is already offered, Green Doctor complements the work that’s already being done. During their home visits or telephone calls, Green Doctor will also pick up on other issues faced by residents, issues that local councils can help resolve. 

The challenge comes in ensuring that the Green Doctor and local councils work in a joined-up way so that there are no gaps or overlaps in service provision.

Often it’s difficult for Green Doctor to know which services Thanet District Council has available to refer clients to, and vice versa. Local councils and Green Doctors need to stay in regular contact to ensure that residents are getting the best possible support from both sides. 

Another big challenge for Green Doctor is that, because of Covid regulations, most advice sessions still happen over the telephone. Most Green Doctors would agree that it’s much more helpful to be able to see the resident’s housing situation for themselves and pick up on any peripheral issues that might be apparent in the home. 

Looking to the future

As we move further into the energy crisis, Green Doctor will continue to support Thanet’s residents alongside Thanet District Council. 

There will be more residents like Sue and Pete on their books, but all the more reason to keep going, keep identifying the ways in which they’re struggling and find solutions to help them live happily and comfortably in their own homes. 

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