All year round BHESCo offer residents of Brighton and Hove free, impartial, expert advice to help make energy costs more affordable for everyone.
Many of the people we speak to are marginalised and are on a very low-income, meaning they may often have to make the impossible decision between heating and eating.
In many cases, navigating the complex world of energy tariffs and financial support applications is too much for people to handle, or perhaps they do not have the means available to take action (for example, not having a phone, a computer, or an internet connection).
Thankfully, over the years BHESCo have been able to achieve many great successes on behalf of residents, saving hundreds of pounds on energy bills whilst making homes warmer and easier to heat.
Here is just a small selection of some of the inspiring work we have delivered recently…
Case Study 1
Age Range: 45 – 50
Circumstances: Low-Income household, difficulties with speaking English, Recipient of Universal Credit
Tim provides energy advice sessions every fortnight at the Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project – an education and work skills charity in Brighton that also provides healthy meals from £1.50.
In March 2020, Sharif came to speak to him with a recent energy bill from Npower about which he was concerned. It amounted to £308 for the Jan – March period. Recently arrived in the UK, his understanding of English is limited, but Tim realised that this bill was difficult for him to pay.
He also noted that the bill was estimated. Thankfully, Sharif had brought meter readings with him. Together they called Npower to submit the readings and get an up-to-date bill, which was for £244. Tim tried to give Sharif further advice but he was not able to adequately understand.
To overcome the communication barrier, Tim called Ahmad, the Arabic speaking lead organiser for the Sussex Syrian Community, which is one of BHESCo’s partner. With Ahmad as a translator, Tim was able to explain to Sharif that he could arrange for this bill to be paid by the Brighton Lions Club’s ‘Project Wenceslas’, which is a fund available to help those in fuel debt.
Tim did this immediately after he returned to the office. It was also arranged for them to meet again at Voices In Exile, a drop-in support centre for recently arrived migrants where there would be several interpreters available to help Sharif switch to a cheaper supplier. When they met and with his outstanding balance settled, Sharif was able to switch on that day.
Tim identified a Direct Debit tariff with Scottish Power which would save him £350 compared to his cash/cheque tariff. There is an obligation with the tariff to have a smart meter fitted, which Tim explained would be useful for Sharif so that he did not have to give meter readings in the future and would always get an accurate bill.
This was all agreed and the switch request was completed. During the switching process, Tim registered the client for the Priority Services Register for the reason of ‘non-English speaking’.
Case Study 2
Age Range: 35 – 45
Circumstances: Low Income, parent to school age child, part-time employment, not eligible for benefits.
Kayla met Monika at the St Peters Church ‘Womens Safehaven’ – a weekly social support space for women that takes place at St Peter’s Church in Brighton.
Monika approached Kayla to ask about applying for the £140 Warm Home Discount (WHD). Unfortunately, the WHD eligibility for SSE, her supplier, only applies to parents who have children up to the age of 5.
From previous experience, however, Kayla knew that Co-op Energy offers the WHD to customers who have parental responsibility for children up to the age of 16.
In addition, they also offer the possibility to pay by cash/cheque, which was important to Monika as she does not want to pay by monthly Direct Debit. A 12-month fixed tariff with Co-op Energy was identified as the best tariff for her to switch to: it would offer the Warm Home Discount and allow her to continue paying upon receipt of bill.
The switch request was completed and it is estimated it will save Monika £216 over the next year. One month later, when Kayla met Monika again at the same advice location, was able to complete a Warm Home Discount application on her behalf.
Furthermore, Kayla arranged for BHESCo to deliver some free energy saving measures which will help reduce her energy consumption and make the home warmer.
Case Study 3
Age Range: 35 – 45
Circumstances: Unemployed, English as non-first language, Recipient of PIP and DLA
Tim Beecher, BHESCo’s Operations Director, met Rosemary in December 2019 after having been invited to speak to the Brighton Black and Minority Ethnic Over 50 Women’s Group.
The session began with a group discussion on the benefits of switching, the Warm Home Discount, Priority Services Register, good energy-saving behaviour and free energy surveys from the SHINE programme.
Following the group discussion, there was a separate session for those who wanted to discuss their energy concerns with Tim one to one. Rosemary had brought her bills in to discuss as she found her bills expensive. Tim explained that paying upon receipt of bill, as Rosemary was doing, is one of the most expensive ways to pay and he also identified her as eligible for the Warm Home Discount (WHD) as a recipient of DLA and PIP.
Tim completed a tariff comparison using USwitch website and found a fixed 12-month tariff with EON which would save Rosemary £240 compared to her tariff with EDF. The tariff is only available to customers who pay by Direct Debit and who agree to have a smart meter fitted.
Rosemary agreed to both, as it will save her so much money. They completed the switch request that day and the WHD application over the phone a month later. Tim also sent a referral to Brighton and Hove City Council for Rosemary to receive a free home energy efficiency improvement survey via the EU SHINE/Interreg programme.
The session at the BMECP was considered a great success, and Tim was invited back to speak to the group again.
Case Study 4
Age Range: 45 – 50
Circumstances: Low Income, non-English speaking, parental responsibility for child under 16
In October 2019, Tim Beecher of BHESCo’s Energy Saving Service met Jonny at the Sussex Syrian Community weekly drop-in, where migrants from Syria meet on a weekly basis for social reasons and to receive support and advice. Jonny approached Tim and, through the help of an interpreter, Tim helped him to reduce the cost of his energy bill.
Tim identified Bulb Energy as offering the cheapest tariff for customers using Pay As You Go meters. In addition, Bulb Energy offers the Warm Home Discount to customers who have parental responsibility for children under the age of 16. EDF, Jonny’s supplier back then, only offers this for children up to the age of 5.
Tim completed a switch request to Bulb Energy which will save Jonny about £190 in one year. Tim referred Jonny for a free home energy efficiency survey from Brighton and Hove City Council as part of the EU funded ‘SHINE/ Interreg’ programme and also for a fuel voucher of £49 from Citizens Advice to make sure he can afford adequate heating during the winter.
A month later, Tim met Jonny again. They completed the Warm Home Discount application online and then called Bulb Energy to ask about having the meter exchanged. Fortunately Jonny was able to pass the credit-check and Bulb Energy will install a smart credit meter for him. He will then be moved on to their Direct Debit ‘Vari-Fair’ tariff which will save a further £100.
Contact BHESCo for free impartial help
If you are struggling to afford to pay your gas and electric bills this winter then please get in touch with BHECo’s energy advisors as soon as possible.
There are many ways that we can provide support, such as finding you a cheaper tariff, helping you apply for the Warm Home Discount, or installing free energy saving measures in your home.
Send us your details using the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
Tel: 0800 999 6671