Charity aims to save Waltham Forest residents money on billsHEET helps advise people in north-east London on ways to cut their household bills
People struggling to pay rising energy bills may be able to save hundreds with the help of a Walthamstow energy advice team.
For more than 20 years the Home Energy Efficiency Training (HEET) project has been working to help households in north-east London cut their bills, stay warm and cut carbon emissions.
HEET estimates that its small team of advisors helped Waltham Forest households save an average of £314 last year. The team of six employees and one volunteer take a “holistic approach” by offering advice managing bills and debt, energy efficiency surveys and referrals to ‘green grants’ for energy saving measures such as insulation.
Energy efficiency surveyor and HEET case worker Alex Hodson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service anyone who is over 60, disabled or on a low-income can ask for help.
To anyone struggling to pay their bills in Waltham Forest or Enfield, he said: “Get in touch, definitely, there are things we can look at.
“We’d always look at bills – how they’re paying, who they’re paying and what the tariff is – switching may not save anything at the moment, but there are things that can be done.
“We can look at what discounts are available and see if they’re getting the right benefits and signposting them [to other services that can help].
“In terms of advice, if they’re in Waltham Forest or Enfield, they can call us and we can help them.”
A breakdown of the average savings HEET made last year includes: £35 in benefit checks, £57 in household support, £131 in discounts or switching, £47 in household measures and £41 in heating repairs or adjustments.
Even if there isn’t a cheaper way of doing things, Alex said HEET can offer support with managing bills and debt.
He added: “The other thing is contacting energy companies; if you’re struggling or in debt, contact them because they will negotiate sometimes, they will offer help even if it is temporary.
“There are payment holidays and lower repayment rates – if you speak to them then you can get help.
“We know they can do certain things that they tell people they can’t sometimes, it is ridiculously random when you ring them.”
People receiving advice from HEET vary from people with limited English or young people living alone for the first time to well-informed pensioners who want help applying for insulation grants.
HEET’s team operates that on a “ridiculously small” budget and is based in a Walthamstow church, yet they visited 450 homes in Waltham Forest last year and another 90 in other boroughs.
Alex said: “We’re poorly funded by a patchwork of organisations, but given the huge need we never have enough.”
While most of its work is in Waltham Forest, the team also visit homes in Enfield and has a handyman service subsidised by Redbridge Council.
In the face of the housing and cost of living crises, HEET is getting “more and more” referrals about people living in damp and disrepair.
Alex said: “We get them all the time, the system is broken in that sense, all HEET can do is help people in their day-to-day lives.
“But you do end up feeling like a drop in the ocean when what people need is proper housing that’s not damaging their health – and that isn’t available.
“It’s not political to say there’s a massive housing crisis, but there isn't a shortage of housing, there's a shortage of social housing in good condition.”
HEET is now looking for a new co-ordinator after “legend” Tom Ruxton, who founded the non-profit in 1999, recently left.
Alex spoke positively of Waltham Forest Council’s lead in the London-wide push to retrofit homes – making them more energy efficient – but said HEET’s independence is its strength.
He said: “That independence and ability to act quickly is really important when people are in cold conditions.
“You can legislate that all councils have to do certain things, but you can’t legislate for small organisations that can create change in communities themselves – that’s more organic.”
To contact HEET for advice, call 0208 520 1900 or visit their website: www.theheetproject.org.uk