East Sefton Labour Action Teams have welcomed steps Sefton Council is taking to help residents cope with the rocketing price of household heating bills.
The soaring cost of household heating has become one of the main issues of concern for residents in the borough.
Sefton Council's dedicated Affordable Warmth Workers, funded through Supporting People, say they have noticed a significant rise in the number of referrals they receive to assist residents in fuel debt and hence developed actions to assist.
Once a referral is made to Sefton Council's Environment Service, Energy and Environmental Management Section, an Affordable Warmth Worker will contact the resident and arrange a home visit. While at the property the Affordable Warmth Worker will ask to see a copy of a recent bill and read the gas and electric meter. They will then contact the supplier to determine:
* The debt is correct (through providing current meter readings)
* The resident is on the cheapest tariff available
* A manageable repayment plan is arranged
* The resident is on the Priority Service Register (if eligible, this protects vulnerable clients from aggressive disconnection procedures)
* They are registered to receive the Warm Homes discount of up to £120 (if in the eligible boarder group, joining the Priority Service Register is essential to access this)
The Affordable Warmth Worker can also apply to have the debt cleared through Charis, the organisation that controls charitable monies on behalf of the main utilities, if there have been extenuating circumstances that have lead to a debt being accumulated.
Also the Affordable Warmth Worker will offer their main services to make sure the property is as energy efficient as possible saving the householder unnecessary costs, where possible referring the client to benefits uptake and, making them aware of other schemes they may benefit from (such as free smoke alarms). The team have submitted the annual revised Sefton Affordable Warmth Strategy to this committee as a report and will submit an account of all activities and schemes to a future meeting.
Maghull Labour Action Team's Lynn Gatherer said: "Fuel bills have rocketed and I know lots of people are struggling to pay to keep their homes warm.
"My greatest fear is that vulnerable and older people in our community are having to decide between putting on the heating and eating because they can't make ends meet.
"But there is support there for them through Sefton's Affordable Warmth Team to get help and advice.
"The key message is, don't suffer in silence and don't let an elderly or vulnerable family member or neighbour suffer in silence. Contact the team and find out just what support and advice is available."
Maghull Town Council leader, Labour's Cllr Maurice Byrne said said: "The cold can be a killer. Thousands of people, mainly the elderly and vulnerable die because of the cold each year.
"But there is help available. It doesn't need to be a choice between having a hot meal and warming your home.
"The Labour Action Team urge anyone concerned about not be able to meet the cost of warming their homes to contact the experts. They are there to help."
For more details on how to get the advice and support you need, contact the Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre (ESTAC) free on 0800 512 012.