£1 million energy fund helping stave off the cold

£1 million energy fund helping stave off the cold

TERMINALLY ill residents in East Lothian are among those benefiting from a new £1 million community energy fund.

More than £225,000 has been paid out to people by the Community Windpower Energy Fund, and 580 households have been helped to tackle soaring energy bills.

The fund was launched by Community Windpower, Advice Direct Scotland and East Lothian Council at the end of last year.

Its aim is to provide support this winter for people in the county struggling with energy costs, including terminally ill people.

Amy Borthwick, clinical nurse manager with the charity Marie Curie, said terminally ill people in East Lothian were among those struggling with the cost of energy.

She said: “This energy fund is a step in the right direction in helping terminally ill people in East Lothian mitigate the crippling energy costs.

“Many terminally ill people require a warm home to help ease their symptoms and having the heating off as they’re worried about electricity bills is a burden they should not be carrying on their shoulders.

“This financial support will help make a difference as we continue through the winter months.

“I would urge those living with a terminal illness in East Lothian to come forward, as their applications will be automatically accepted and fast-tracked.”

The fund is supported directly from Community Windpower’s onshore wind farms near Aikengall, in the Lammermuir Hills.

As well as terminally ill people, the fund has also helped other county residents who were struggling with their bills, including Ben Worobec.

The 59-year-old is currently out of work and in receipt of Universal Credit.

The Tranent resident had been left constantly watching his smart meter, keeping his thermostat very low in order to afford the bills.

He applied to the fund after making enquiries with his local housing office, and received a grant of £332.

Mr Worobec said: “I had been really struggling to make ends meet and was having to decide between buying food or heating my home.

“I was in the position of having no heating as I had to buy food.

“It was only 10˚C in my home.

“The award I received through the Community Windpower Energy Fund via the charity Advice Direct Scotland has saved me from freezing or ending up hospitalised with hypothermia, and I’m ever so grateful and indebted for this support that was available.”

Grant applications can be made by individuals through a new dedicated website, communityadvice.scot, while ‘referral partners’ such as East Lothian Council, charities and local housing associations can apply on behalf of vulnerable people.

Anyone on means-tested benefits can apply directly, while referral partners can also act on behalf of anyone on a low income or facing financial hardship.

Those who are terminally ill also qualify and will be fast-tracked to minimise their hardship.

Charity Advice Direct Scotland, which also runs the Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund, makes payments for electricity usage by issuing PayPoint or Post Office vouchers, or sends the money direct to the supplier for those with a credit meter.

Up to £1 million will be paid out from the scheme in total, which is due to run until the end of March.

Rod Wood, Community Windpower’s managing director, said: “We can see the immediate positive effect this specific fund is having on vulnerable families and individuals in the area, with enquiries to our BeGreen advice centre on [Dunbar] High Street having increased dramatically.

“This shows real benefits to the local host communities to the Aikengall wind farms during this difficult time.”

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