As energy bills in the UK soar, and Wales continues its journey to achieving Net Zero, Groundwork North Wales is delivering a collection of free energy-saving services and measures to help households in North Wales stay warm and well.
Our Green Doctor service has been running for several years and involves expert guidance and advice for people and households, particularly the socially and economically vulnerable, on ways to reduce their bills and carbon emissions.
Nearly a quarter (more than 21 per cent) of the UK’s carbon emissions come from our homes – including heating, lighting, and appliances. There are simple ways to reduce that carbon footprint and stay warm and well, such as draught-proofing and insulating your home.
Those who are referred or signposted to Groundwork North Wales for energy support often come via local organisations and housing trusts and can be teens through to retirees.
Everyone receives an initial triage call from a specialist advisor, who will assess their energy situations by asking a series of questions about their home, such as what heating and energy systems are in place, if the loft is insulated, and the condition of their windows. Where appropriate, a member of our team then visits to carry out a thorough consultation.
They will assess the causes of heat loss in the home, ways to tackle any mould or damp, provide small water and energy saving measures, such as draught excluders and foil radiator cups, gloves, hats and blankets, and offer advice and information on any support available to households, particularly those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Our advisors also have restricted access to grants or vouchers that we can give to those whose needs meet certain criteria. We have provided Covid-19 relief funding to people affected by the pandemic, for example, because their energy bills have risen, because they have found themselves unexpectedly at home working or caring for children when they’d ordinarily be at a workplace. These tend to be people who have not previously experienced energy debt. We also have vouchers for people on prepayment measures.
If our advisors witness any additional needs when on a home visit, they signpost people either to other Groundwork North Wales projects, or to specialist support from other organisations or local authorities.
In 2021, by identifying energy savings for households and giving them the appropriate guidance and support, we saved 27,125 kilogrammes of carbon emissions.
The impact of this project on people’s health and wellbeing is invaluable. Those with existing health conditions are particularly vulnerable to the cold, while the stress and anxiety of worrying about meeting rising energy costs can be devastating. While there is a great deal of support out there, the sudden arrival of so many energy companies left many feeling overwhelmed and they disengaged.
Groundwork North Wales is a network of organisations working across different areas with specialist teams, including in education, training, and the environment.
Over the years, our staff have amassed a wealth of experience through programme delivery. This knowledge and experience assist in our development of future support and gives a consistent approach to the support we can offer.
We are fortunate to be able to access a network of volunteers who may benefit from our energy offer through their participation in our other programmes.
Whether they come on a first aid course, or volunteer to help on a recycling scheme, we want to ensure they are made aware of and can access our full range of support, if they need it.
For that to happen, cross-team working is crucial. While we have specialist advisors within our energy team, we seek to ensure all Groundwork North Wales staff know how to respond to a basic query about our energy offer and can outline the support we can give.
We have a regular internal newsletter and share our quarterly reports with the other teams, so everyone is aware of what each team is delivering. We also hold all-staff meetings every quarter, where we showcase successes, discuss challenges, outline upcoming work, and share funding updates. Our project managers also meet regularly to discuss activity, needs and challenges, where support is needed, and where there may be crossover and an opportunity for us to share information about our energy offer.
We have been offering energy services in various guises for several years, retaining a dynamic approach and adapting our service as the context around us has changed.
Despite our experience in this area, there have been challenges along the way.
Covid-19’s arrival was difficult, for example. As our advisors had previously relied on offering home visits, which was not possible due to national lockdowns and social distancing requirements, we had to stop and take stock of our approach. We re-launched our service a few months later, providing advice through calls and organising doorstep drop offs of small water and energy measures to keep people warm and well while things were locked down.
These performance indicators include waste reduction, the number of home visits our Green Doctor service makes, how many small water and energy efficiency measures we install, and the size of the savings made.
Other indicators include measuring the project’s positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing, including through an evaluation survey.