Borders Housing Network secures warm and well funding

Borders Housing Network secures warm and well funding

Robin Tatler and Matt at Cafe Recharge

The Borders Housing Network (BHN) has announced a major expansion of the support offered to tenants struggling with energy costs, thanks to a grant from Scottish Borders Council’s Cost of Living Fund.

BHN, comprising Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA), Eildon Housing Association (EHA), Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) and Waverley Housing (WH), will receive £84,000 from the fund.

This will enable SBHA’s existing affordable warmth adviser to continue in post for a further year, and allow for the recruitment of a second adviser. The second adviser will also offer support to Tenants of the other members of the Network. It is estimated that around 2,000 Tenants will receive advice and support over the coming year.

Home energy costs are a growing concern for many, but those in social housing have a higher than average risk of finding themselves in fuel poverty. In addition, a household in the Scottish Borders is at greater risk - 29% of households in the Borders are fuel poor, compared to the national average of 25%.

This has been exacerbated in recent years by the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing cost-of-living challenges. To help combat this, since 2021 the BHN has successfully secured £750,000 in Scottish Government funding to make payments towards Tenants’ fuel debt, with £250,000 allocated to the Fuel Debt Foundation to issue fuel vouchers to Tenants on pre-paid meters. To date, this fund has reduced fuel debt for 517 social housing Tenants and issued 2,000 fuel vouchers for those Tenants on a pre-paid meter.

As well as direct financial assistance, all the households supported have also received basic energy advice, including energy saving tips, help with understanding energy bills and meters, and support with accessing warm home discounts. The BHN has also referred Tenants to their own specialist in-house Financial Inclusion teams to maximise household income, increase confidence in relation to household budgeting.

Julia Mulloy, SBHA’s chief executive, said: “We have seen a significant increase in demand for affordable warmth advice and support, with many Tenants struggling to heat their homes, or too worried about bills to turn on their heating at all. This clearly causes enormous stress, and can aggravate other health conditions. Feedback from those who have accessed the support has been overwhelmingly positive, with Tenants telling us that we have given them hope. This funding from Scottish Borders Council is very much appreciated and will allow the Borders Housing Network to build on our success in working together to support Tenants here in the Borders through these challenging times.”

Councillor Robin Tatler, Scottish Borders Council executive member for Communities and Equalities, added: “We understand that there is real pressure on households at the moment and this fund will allow BHN to continue to support their Tenants in the coming months. We would encourage all households who are struggling to seek advice and, as well as this support for the Tenants of BHN, there is range of support available via the council’s website.”

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