More than 400 charities, organizations and advisers have signed up to direct Highlanders and other Scots struggling with their energy bills to a Â£4million relief fund.
The Scottish Government scheme is administered by the national advice service Advice Direct Scotland, and ‘referral partners’ can still sign up to help their clients affected by the cost of living crisis.
The Home Heating Support Fund is open until March 31 and applications can be made on behalf of individuals through referral partners via www.homeheatingadvice.scot.
Charities, housing associations and community organizations that provide energy or debt advice are encouraged to register online so they can seek funding for the people they support.
Targeted funding from the Home Heating Support Fund will reflect each individual’s situation, with additional support available for households where someone is over the age of 75, lives with a disability or illness and/or lives in a remote community or islander.
Payments start at Â£100, rising to Â£1,000 to settle outstanding debt, with money paid directly to suppliers on behalf of the household.
Eligibility is based on households that “self-ration” their energy, i.e. those who deliberately limit their energy consumption so that they can afford to spend money on other goods or services.
Payments can be for electricity, fuel oil, gas, LPG, coal or other forms of heating, and are paid directly to the supplier.
Individuals cannot approach the fund directly.
Andrew Bartlett, Managing Director of Advice Direct Scotland, said: âSince the program launched, over 400 referral partners have signed up and we are receiving hundreds of inquiries on behalf of their customers struggling with energy bills. .
âThis demonstrates the scale of the cost of living crisis.
âBut we know there are more people who need help, so we encourage any charities, housing associations or community organizations that provide energy or debt advice to register with us.
“This fund will prove absolutely crucial in ensuring that the hardest hit households can continue to heat their homes and feed their families.”
THAW Orkney, a charity that helps fuel-poor households, has been able to secure individual grants of around Â£350 on average to dozens of households since the fund opened in December, making payments direct to people’s energy suppliers or by supporting customers with weekly recharge SMS. .
Craig Nisbet, Community Support Manager at THAW Orkney, spoke of the huge difference the fund has made to clients and encouraged other organizations to sign up to become Referral Partners.
He said: “Having access to this fund this year means I’m making wonderful phone calls where I can tell people ‘your child will be warm this winter’.
“When we call these people you can feel their shoulders drop, you can feel their tension go away. There are so many other things to worry about right now and it’s a weight less for them.
âAs a small third sector organization working locally, with a small number of staff and limited resources, we are delighted to have been able to provide such fantastic support in a small rural community through this programme.
âWe have seen families and households extremely affected by this where they know they will not be cold in the immediate future.
“If there are organizations in other small communities that know people in difficulty and don’t know how to access funds to help them, becoming a referral partner can give you access to life-changing support. Winter.”
Rachael Taylor (31) is one of many households that have received help from THAW Orkney.
“My winter bills are skyrocketing from around Â£100 a month to Â£250 a month,” she said.
âI don’t have my heating, I have very little heating in my house and I tend to take a jumper and some blankets when it’s cold.
âI’ve been dealing with THAW for the past year when I had problems with my electricity, and they’ve been wonderful at pointing out what’s available.
“The only way I could afford to pay those bills would be if I didn’t put gas in my car, which is really important when you live in a remote or rural area.
“THAW told me they could support me through the Home Heating Support Fund which was a huge help. The Â£350 is over a month and a half of electricity for me.
âHonestly, I don’t know what I would have done without her. It keeps my head above water financially and means I don’t have to worry about where it all goes.
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