Hillcrest’s fight against poverty generates £1.7m for tenants in single year

Fighting fuel poverty and assisting tenants with a range of welfare benefits has seen Hillcrest HomesEnergy Advice and Tenancy Sustainment teams collectively generate an incredible financial gain of £1.7 million for tenants in a single year.

Hillcrest's fight against poverty generates £1.7m for tenants in single year

Members of Hillcrest's Energy Advice team (Euan Hird first left, Gemma Shields furthest front) and the Tenancy Sustainment Service with tenancy services manager Joy Watson (second left)

The huge figure, which was recorded during the financial year 2019/20 saw HEAT generate £399,064 – which was almost £100,000 more than last year’s figure, and TSS generate £1.3m.

Just some of the actions undertaken by Hillcrest Energy Advice Team (HEAT) have included demonstrations on how to using heating systems efficiently, helping tenants access the Warm Home Discount, offering advice on combating dampness, and in some cases even having energy debt written off.

HEAT’s triumphs included helping 691 households receive a Warm Home Discount payment of £140, while the team successfully managed to have the energy debt of 16 households written off.

The actions that Hillcrest’s Tenancy Sustainment Service (TSS) undertook, which helps tenants become more financially stable by supporting them with benefits and grants advice, included helping tenants access unclaimed eligible benefits and charitable grants.

The on-going impact of fuel poverty and the Universal Credit roll-out has seen a marked effect with more and more tenants coming forward for support, especially with the coronavirus pandemic causing financial uncertainty.

Research carried out last year by Hillcrest covering not just rented homes but privately owned too, suggested that 52% of households could already be in fuel poverty, with 35% of respondents saying their level of fuel poverty had affected their health.

With welfare reforms causing a significant pinch on households’ purses, the two teams have seen a big increase in tenants getting in touch with no money for food or heating bills, in many cases resulting in them falling ‘off-supply’ from their energy company.

Joy Watson, tenant services manager, said: “The combined impacts of fuel poverty and the problems created by welfare reform are having a very big effect on a huge number of households.

“In many cases, people must choose between feeding their families or keeping them warm, which is an unacceptable decision to have to make in current-day Scotland. In many cases, these families cannot afford to do either.

“Despite only being small teams, HEAT and TSS have been doing an incredible non-stop job to support these households and improve their standard of living. The teams can offer a wide range of support, so we would encourage tenants to get in touch with us on 0300 123 2640 if they would like any help.”

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