Monday, 13 February 2012

Fuel Bills Blues: Big Switch turns up the heat.


Many hands make lights work.
Which? & 38 Degrees Big Switch

Two new schemes are underway to help with keeping warm and paying fuel bills. Both are aimed at the increasing numbers of people now living in fuel poverty and struggling to pay rising fuel bills. Mr Cameron tells us to 'shop around' and free Utility Bills Clinics should help us do that, but could there be an easier way?

The Big Switch
National campaign groups Which? and  38 Degrees think so. They have partnered to start an independent national scheme called The Big Switch in which they plan to negotiate a group deal with one of the energy companies to supply gas and electricity at a cheaper group rate. They are also campaigning for billing tariffs that are easier to compare and understand. More than 50,000 people registered with the scheme within the first 48 hours of its opening in early February, and it is growing fast.  Registration ends on 31 March and all you have to provide to register is your name and your email address. You should check when your current supplier's contract expires but you can still register your interest and stay in the loop. Don't forget to tell people you know who aren't familiar with the internet about this new option.

To find out more about the Big Switch go to:
38 Degrees: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/the-big-switch#petition or to
Which? http://www.which.co.uk/energy/saving-money/guides/the-big-switch-explained/

Raising Awareness
Another scheme recently introduced is backed by a grant from the Department of Health to raise awareness and increase participation  in a number of  current schemes including warm home schemes improving insulation in homes, and other schemes offering free Utility Bills Clinics.  It will also fund some 'safe and warm packs' which include flasks and thermal blankets, socks and gloves.
Partner organisations; Help Direct, Age UK Lancashire, Lancaster City Council, LESS, CAB and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service  will be offering support and information for adults across the Lancaster District.

Help Direct Manager, Donna Studholme, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for adults across the Lancaster District to get the support they need.
“From the enquiries we get, many of those are from elderly residents who are isolated and struggling to get through the winter months."

For more information contact Help Direct on: 0303 333 1111 or email askus@loc.helpdirectlancs.org.uk  visit www.helpdirect.org.uk  or pop into the Help Direct office:  7-11 Chapel Street, Lancaster, LA1 1NZ.
(see our 'whats on' calendar and http://www.lessuk.org/ for free Less UK Utility Bills Clinic dates around the area)

More advice on help with paying vital utility bills can be found at the Carer's Direct website:
http://www.nhs.uk/CarersDirect/moneyandlegal/finance/Pages/Utilitybills.aspx

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