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Helping councils support vulnerable residents during COVID-19

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As well as giving advice to people who are worried about paying their energy bills and staying warm during the coronavirus outbreak, Home Energy Scotland staff in the north east are working with Aberdeen City Council to check on the most vulnerable residents. With a network of specially trained advisors across Scotland, we’re keen to hear from other councils which could use some support.

The current setup in Aberdeen builds on an existing partnership with Aberdeen City Council, offering home energy advice and area-based energy efficiency improvements. David Mackay, Centre Manager at our north east advice centre, reached out to the council and asked if there was anything the advice team could do to help with the efforts to keep residents safe during the coronavirus outbreak.

After two days of training, the advice team began calling vulnerable residents who had received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer advising them to self-isolate and shield themselves from picking up the virus. There are around 7,000 people in this category in the Aberdeen City Council area. “The team are already very used to working with vulnerable people, so it’s a good fit,” David said.

During the calls, advisors make sure residents have received their letter and understand the instructions for shielding, and also check whether they need any other help. Armed with the latest local information, the team can advise on everything from making links with GP surgeries and accessing food delivery services, to support in the community with things like dog walking. And of course, if any residents are having trouble with their heating or are worried about being able to pay their energy bill, they will benefit from the free and impartial advice usually offered by the team. 

As well as easing pressure on the new National Assistance Helpline, there’s a real benefit to proactively getting in touch with vulnerable people. “A lot of the people we’ve spoken to so far have been lonely and appreciated having someone to talk to,” David explains. “It’s nice for them to know someone is looking out for them.”

It’s been a good project for the team to get involved in too, as David said, “The advisors feel this project is rewarding because it’s supporting the community, working as part of the coronavirus effort and making a real difference to vulnerable customers.”

Discussions are beginning with other councils about replicating this project across the Home Energy Scotland network. If you work for a council, the NHS or another organisation which could use support and would like to find out more about working in partnership, please get in touch. Email HES_Partnerships@est.org.uk.