War on fuel poverty gets a cash boost

News story
News story

WIGANERS living in fuel poverty will be helped to live greener, healthier lives thanks to a new funding pot.

The borough is set to receive £100,000 to improve 120 homes under the Government’s Affordable Warmth Access Referral Mechanism (AWARM) created by Wigan Council and the borough’s clinical commissioning group.

Environment and climate change secretary Ed Davey hailed Wigan and eight other local authorities as pioneers who are being recognised for their efforts to help cash-strapped residents living in cold, unhealthy properties.

AWARM brings local and national politicians together to integrate improvements to housing, environmental benefit and health advantages from better-insulated homes.

Mr Davey said: “Wigan has got a really good scheme which we want to back and we think this funding will enable them to reach another 120 households. We also want to see if some of the lessons learned in Wigan can be applied across the country.

“We’ve been delighted with the response we’ve had in Wigan. We want to work more closely with local authorities who are on the front line and have an ability to bring housing and health together.

“There are so many benefits for this. We’ve got energy bill benefits of people paying less for electricity and gas, health benefits as illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma can be made worse by cold, damp homes, the benefit of people having more comfortable homes and environmental benefits too.

“It will also create jobs for people fitting insulation and improved heating systems. We are delighted to be trailblazing this announcement.”

In addition to the £100,000 of Westminster funding AWARM, which currently helps around 125 households a year, will be expanded using a joint fund of £200,000 over the next two years to target an extra 2,000 Wiganers in fuel poverty.

Participants who are struggling to heat their homes are referred to the scheme by their GP and receive support including fitting home safety and energy efficiency devices, advice with fuel debt and help making budgets stretch further.

Anees Mank, service manager for housing services at Wigan Council, said: “As a result of this national recognition Wigan Council was invited to bid for additional funding from the government’s fuel poverty and health booster fund to help people who face health risks because of the cold.

“This is great news for owner-occupiers in Wigan who are suffering from a health condition or disability and cannot afford to make improvements to the heating and insulation in their homes, as we will now be able to fully fund these measures for them.”

Public health and housing teams in the borough have secured funding from the joint investment fund and hope to save around £120,000 per year by keeping people out of hospital and living healthier lives.

Prof Kate Ardern, Wigan Council director of public health, said: “Wigan Council is looking to make use of a broad range of services to provide advice and refer people for support through our Wigan Deal for Warmth.

“While the main source of referrals in the past has been from health, housing and social care professionals visiting people in their homes, in future referrals will also come from community health champions, the fire service, hospital discharge team, GP surgeries and Wigan borough’s healthy living pharmacies, dentists and opticians.”

To find out more about the scheme, ring Wigan Council’s housing services on 01942 489220.