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Staying warm and healthy

We’re committed to helping our more vulnerable customers stay warm; budget effectively and look after their health.

With fuel poverty still a pressing issue in our region, we exceeded our targets for providing free gas connections to some of our poorest customers in 2018/19 – connecting 2,763 customers to the gas network.

We also provided a range of additional support, such as free home energy audits, a funding scheme for grass roots initiative and partnerships with charities and training providers.

We also continued to train our own colleagues, so that they can better advise customers who are facing vulnerable circumstances.

Outputs - a detailed look

This table takes a detailed look at our performance throughout our current regulatorary period, known as RIIO-GD1. Simply click the yellow tooltip to read a brief commentary on what the statistic means, and see how we performed.

Connections Target
Number of fuel poor connections

We exceeded our target for providing gas connections to some of our poorest customers, delivering 2,763 free connections.


Case studies

We’re involved in a range of activity to help our customers stay warm and support those living in fuel poverty.

A welcome that’s always warm

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Warm Hubs are friendly places, staffed by volunteers, where vulnerable residents can go to socialise, get warm, often having a hot meal and access advice and support.

Working with our partner, Community Action Northumberland (CAN), 20 hubs have been established across rural Northumberland, and the first of several hubs is now open in Newcastle.

We have funded the project for the past three years, and it has now become financially self-sustaining, securing its long-term future.

Hubs have been established in church halls, a café, a pub and even a fish and chip shop!

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Helping families save energy and money

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2018 saw us install our 10,000th free gas connection – helping families in fuel poverty access affordable warmth.

But our approach goes far beyond free connections. Working with community energy specialists, we provide holistic support for customers struggling to heat their homes.

For example, we fund ‘Green Doctors’ to carry out home consultations, which customers save money on their energy bills, and access discounted or subsidised home improvements such as insulation and gas boilers.

In 2017/18, more than 700 customers were given home energy, and switching advice, leading to around £100,00 lifetime savings.

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Training our staff

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We work with specialist partners to train our colleagues to spot signs of vulnerability and provide appropriate support and referrals.

More than 360 colleagues have become Dementia Friends, and we have developed our own vulnerability awareness sessions, which are being rolled out across the business.

A further group of colleagues has been trained by Durham Fire and Rescue Service to identify potential fire risks in customers’ homes.

Through these efforts, we’re creating an army of caring colleagues.

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Measuring societal impact

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We’ve teamed up with Northern Powergrid, Northumbrian Water and Yorkshire Water for a project to measure the societal impact of our combined activities.

With such a wide range of activities, locations and communities, there is no off-the-shelf tool to fully assess all social impacts.

But by placing network activities in logical causal chains – a clear way of setting out each step of each process and showing its effects – the impact can be mapped thoroughly and consistently.

A final report is now being compiled.

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Community Promises

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Community Promises, our grants scheme for vulnerable and hard-to-reach customers, is now in its third year.

We have awarded £100k to grass roots projects  – £50,000 in 2016, and a further £50,000 in 2017.

Successful projects range from a community radio project to promote fuel efficiency to an outreach programme to raise CO awareness among refugee and immigrant communities.

In the first year alone, 3,940 vulnerable and hard to reach customers were given practical support and advice.

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A warm welcome in Newcastle

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Warm Hubs provide friendly places where local people can go to socialise, stay warm and get a hot meal.

They’ve proved a big success in rural Northumberland, where 13 self-sustained sites have already been established, and we’ve recently launched a new Warm Hub at St Paul’s Centre in Newcastle – the first time we’ve tried the concept in an urban environment.

We’re now expanding the approach, which is helping to combat fuel poverty and loneliness, to urban areas, with a further seven hubs planned for Newcastle.

Steve Forster from Together Newcastle, working with us on the initiative, said:

“Warm Hubs are a simple and effective way of bringing people together who otherwise may become isolated and lonely, and struggling a bit with heating their homes. They also provide a great opportunity for community groups and churches to make use of their buildings.”

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Examining the true cost of fuel poverty

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Households not connected to the gas grid are among the coldest and most expensive to heat in the UK. Many people living in such properties are at risk of severe ill health.

Since 2008, gas distributors have provided free gas connections for fuel poor households. However, the eligibility for connection does not currently take into account health-based criteria, and the opportunity to ease pressure on the NHS.

We’re launching a pilot project to examine the potential savings to the health budget and improvements to quality of life, by connecting homes that are not eligible under current rules.

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Green doctors

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Green Doctors is a partnership with environmental charity Groundwork to increase warmth and wellbeing among vulnerable households.

Customers receive home visits during which experts install energy and water saving devices, offer advice around grants, rebates and utility switching and promote behaviour change around energy and water use.

In 2016/17, more than 300 homes were visited, with more than 1600 energy efficiency measures installed and over £12,000 saved through energy supplier switching.

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Working with The Children's Society

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In 2015/16, we completed a successful 12 month pilot with the Children’s Society to support vulnerable and fuel poor families in Bradford.

The project showed that our interventions are most successful when we seek to tackle the root causes of fuel poverty, which are often complex and varied.

In response, we have launched a new programme with the Children’s Society in Newcastle, to support 900 teenagers who are about to live independently for the first time.

The programme covers essential life skills such as money management and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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