Barclays' grant fund to boost fuel poverty charity in Yorkshire as it sees surge in demand

With rising numbers of people struggling with energy bills, the Groundwork Trust charity saw a surge in the number of young families coming forward to seek support this summer.

Groundwork, which carries out projects to tackle climate change and help people out of fuel poverty, is to expand its Green Doctor programme across parts of Yorkshire

Now, awarded £100,000 in grant funding from Barclays, the trust is to expand its reach in offering environmental guidance and help to people living in fuel poverty.

“This will have a massive impact,” said Emily Thompson, fuel poverty director. “There’s been an awful lot of amazing work done by third sector organisations in recent months, with food banks and food. Many people are really struggling with bills, and the costs of running a house.”

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Groundwork, which carries out projects to tackle climate change and help people out of fuel poverty, is to expand its Green Doctor programme across parts of Yorkshire, giving financial guidance and energy advice.

Groundwork, which carries out projects to tackle climate change and help people out of fuel poverty, is to expand its Green Doctor programme across parts of Yorkshire

This summer, in what would normally have been its quieter months, the charity saw a rise in the number of people seeking support, and organisers say it is support that is sorely needed.

“It was simply because people were at home, and it was becoming more of an issue. Unemployment is rising, and that is going to become a bigger issue,” said Ms Thompson.

“There is definitely a broader group of people suffering at the moment,” she added. “Traditionally it’s the elderly, and that is definitely still the case. But over the summer it has been young families coming forward. It wouldn’t surprise me if this winter we see an increase in young families in need.”

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Groundwork, which carries out projects to tackle climate change and help people out of fuel poverty, is to expand its Green Doctor programme across parts of Yorkshire

Last year the charity helped to create savings of £5.6m for people living in fuel poverty, with volunteers giving 13,509 hours of their time. In March, 140 volunteers signed up to a hub in Leeds to help those on low incomes.

Having already seen a rise in demand, and expecting this to increase over the coming winter months, the charity said the grant has come at the right time for it to help as much as it can.

The charity, which normally goes to people’s homes to talk through things such as energy bills and cost-saving measures, is now offering telephone services. While they are no longer able to meet face-to-face, it does mean they can reach more people.

While for many simple measures like draft excluders or energy saving heaters can make a difference, said Ms Thompson, for others pressures have proved increasingly difficult.

The charity has already given £35,000 in emergency ‘top-up’ funds to help people in Yorkshire heat their homes or cook food so far this year, even in the summer, as the challenge intensified.

Many have built up large fuel debts, and the charity has brought on a debt expert to help.

“An awful lot of people on low incomes tend to be on pre-paid meters, which can mean it costs them an awful lot more,” said Ms Thompson. “If they haven’t the money to put into the meter, they go without. It has been a real surprise for us, when in summer we would typically see far fewer people.”

Grant funding

Having traditionally been focused within West Yorkshire, Groundwork now hopes with Barclays’ grant funding it can expand its offer to more of the region as well as more rural areas and towns.

“We weren’t delivering anything in South Yorkshire, being able to offer services there is great, and in smaller towns in the rest of northern England,” said Ms Thompson.

“Barclays has been very open to ideas about how we spend that money – rather than tying it to certain areas. It’s been really good for us to be able to use that how we need to grow our services, bringing in new staff and expand what we do.

“It’s been a massive help to have that income boost,” she added. “This will help us grow and reach more people.”

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