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Northern Gas Networks (NGN), the gas distribution company for the north of England, helped to launch a scheme yesterday (2 February) to support people living in fuel poverty throughout Northumberland.

The event at Crookham Village Hall in Crookham saw NGN and Community Action Northumberland launch the Warm Hubs scheme, a pilot project that will provide vulnerable people throughout the county with a place to congregate, get warm, have a hot meal and meet friends.

Several charities and organisations, including the NHS, Age UK and members of the local council attended the first ever Warm Hubs event yesterday as well as over 40 local residents.

Fuel poverty is a problem throughout Northumberland, with almost 18,000 households in the county thought to be living in fuel poor conditions. The Warm Hubs scheme aims to help by offering energy advice as well as somewhere warm to socialise with friends.

As part of its work to help get the scheme underway NGN has contributed a generous donation which will help Community Action Northumberland to develop more sites across the county and transform them into hubs for vulnerable and elderly people.

Adrian Hinchcliffe, Chairman, Community Action Northumberland said: “Today’s event at Crookham Village Hall was a brilliant way to launch the Warm Hubs project, with 40 vulnerable people visiting for some food, warmth, and advice on keeping their energy bills down.

“We are hoping that the pilot scheme will help some of the 60,000 people in rural Northumberland, with a view to eventually rolling the scheme out to other parts of the United Kingdom.”

Tom Bell, Head of Social Strategy, Northern Gas Networks, said: “Fuel poverty is a huge problem throughout our region and we believe that this scheme is a great way to reach out to those residents in Northumberland who are living in uncomfortable conditions and struggling to keep warm.

“We’re proud to have been able to help Community Action Northumberland get the Warm Hubs scheme up and running, and are looking forward to helping more people around the area as more and more hubs are set up.”

Mr Bell continued: “These pop up events are a great vehicle for educating people about their energy bills and giving them valuable advice about how they can save themselves money.

“Many people don’t realise they are eligible for a free or discounted connection.  We hope these events will help raise awareness about the support available and encourage people to get in touch and apply.”

Andrew Stockdale, a local resident said: “It was a very sociable occasion with excellent food and I’m looking forward to the next event!”

There are plans to open a further 19 hubs in Northumberland before looking to roll the scheme out in other areas of northern England.

Yesterday also saw the launch of the first of five pop up energy events which took place in Crookham.  The initiative, which is being led by Community Action Northumberland with support from National Energy Action, Northern Gas Networks and SGN, will see pop up hubs offering advice on energy saving and free connections to local residents, set up in towns close to the border of England and Scotland.

If you think you are eligible for a free or discounted gas connection, visit www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk/yourconnections