I am writing to you with an update on the support being provided locally for those struggling with energy bills this winter, particularly now that things have turned colder.
Epsom & Ewell Energy Support Scheme
Firstly, the Epsom and Ewell Energy Support scheme has been making great progress. I am grateful to all of you who have supported the appeal, which is to help those who are struggling with bills to make their homes more energy efficient. The scheme is in operation across the whole of the constituency, including Epsom and Ewell Borough, plus the Nork and Tattenhams area on Epsom Downs and in Ashtead and Leatherhead.
So far the appeal has raised around £36,000 and the money is already making a huge difference. The money is being used by the Good Company, which runs local food banks, and Citizens Advice in Epsom to help people reduce their bills.
The Good Company has been running a package of support for those needing help, including free energy advice – delivered by an expert adviser from Surrey Community Action – and energy saving appliances to help reduce their energy usage, as well as a gas/electricity top-up to help relieve the immediate financial pressure on them. All of the money you have contributed has been used to provide the top-up and energy saving appliances like air fryers, heated drying racks and LED light bulbs. In total they have helped around 250 people so far.
The response from those being helped has been really positive. This is one example:
“The workshop was so helpful and we would definitely want to come to any more you have, so useful, and you’re all so nice! The electric drying rail would be amazing, thank you so much. And the hooded blankets sound great. Really appreciate all the support you guys are giving out.”
(Maria, group workshop)
Citizens Advice have also been providing top-ups for those struggling with bills, and then providing energy saving advice and lower cost appliances. They say that air fryers are by far the most popular option and have been their biggest means of help so far. One of the people they helped said he felt “stronger, more in control and more able to cope with future problems.”
I am again really grateful to those who have helped out. The scheme aims to get those people who do not need the £400 top up being provided for bills this winter by the Government to contribute it to the fund instead. If you are in that position and have not yet supported the scheme, please do consider doing so now.
You can donate via this Justgiving page, which also has more details about the scheme.
Secondly there is now a county-wide network of warm hubs which provide people who are worried about their bills with a place to go during the day if they need one. Several of our local churches are taking part as well as some other organisations. I am really grateful to all those who are doing so.
There is a full list of all the venues and when they are open on the Surrey website, and you can access the detail via this link.
If you are retired and living off the state pension alone or are on a low income you may be entitled to pension credit. The Government is running a campaign to help people understand more about what they may be entitled to. There is also an extra cost of living payment of £324 available for people entitled to pension credit, but you need to apply before December 18th. The details are here.
There is more information here available from the charity Independent Age.
Citizens Advice Volunteers
Finally thank you to all of those who came to my volunteer fair in October and particular to those who have signed up as volunteers.
Citizens Advice have asked me to advertise the fact that they are still looking for a retired lawyer to help them co-ordinate their work with local firms providing pro bono support for people in difficulties. They have also asked me to say that they are short of volunteers to help with the energy support scheme and a range of other roles, and if you would like to help there are details at www.caee.org.uk/volunteer/