100-year-old Mrs L has hearing and sight loss. She lives alone in a two-bedroom end-terrace council house. When she came to the attention of Forth Valley Sensory Centre (FVSC), she was very upset about a £360 a month fuel bill and a £5000 debt to her energy provider.
The charity’s Making Sense of Energy Saving project team immediately asked the energy provider to freeze her account. They got a heating engineer to visit, and made sure they were at the house with Mrs L so she wasn’t alone with strangers in her home. They contacted the National Debt Line and the energy provider’s hardship fund, who wrote off Mrs L's debt. Afterwards, her monthly payments went down to £110.
Forth Valley Sensory Centre supports deaf, hard of hearing, blind, partially sighted and deafblind people to live confident, independent lives. It has been trying to be environmentally friendly for many years, but its Making Sense of Energy Saving Project has taken that to a new level.
It installed LED lighting in the centre, produced accessible films and information, and held events, talks and workshops. It assisted people like Mrs L with advice, even helping to get new heating systems installed in their homes. Its Kitchen Garden project has taught people how to reduce food waste and compost leftovers.
The project produced six energy saving in the home accessible films. The films include audio description, subtitles and BSL translation. All Home Energy Scotland front-line staff also got training to communicate with British Sign Language users.
Jacqui Winning, chief executive of FVSC, said: “It was something that we recognised there was a need for and that we could support people with. We also have a really good group of people in those who use our centre, who can steer us to keep on track. We don’t want to assume people need certain things, but we can try things out, get feedback and deliver that back to providers.”
For FVSC the project wasn’t just about energy advice, but about helping its users to do their bit for the climate emergency.
“It became clear to us that our users were interested in the bigger picture,” explained Jacqui. “Getting advice on how to save money was obviously a real driver – who wouldn’t want to save money. Then, when we started to explore the more responsible citizen elements we found that people were interested in that as well.”
The centre has set up several Green Groups of people interested in doing more to tackle climate change. New funding is also helping it make information on climate challenge current affairs more accessible for people who can’t see or hear.
Leaving a legacy for the future is an important part of this project. Accessible information on the centre website and in hard copy format means people will be able to make informed choices about reducing their carbon footprint for years to come.