Better Housing Better Health (BHBH) is a longstanding service working to reduce the number of people in fuel poverty; and so improve health & wellbeing. It is coordinated by National Energy Foundation (registered charity number 298591), but involves many other organisations across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, with a cross-referral mechanism in place to maximise the benefit to residents of each organisation’s field of expertise. It is kindly funded by Oxford County Council and the five local authority districts.
BHBH operates across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire (excluding Milton Keynes). There are no eligibility criteria for residents to access this service, although it is targeted towards vulnerable residents. It encourages residents to look out for their neighbours, and those more vulnerable than themselves, particularly when the temperature drops, and risk of adverse health effects are increased.
The network provides a central helpline, 0800 107 0044, able to give impartial expert advice on all issues surrounding fuel poverty and affordable warmth. This may include:
- Energy saving tips
- Heating systems; including any financial assistance for upgrades or replacements
- Insulation; loft, cavity wall and solid wall
- Fuel debt advice
- Switching energy suppliers
The helpline is promoted towards all residents likely to be struggling with rising energy bills, or those vulnerable to the cold. If residents prefer, there is also a dedicated email address, also used for incoming referrals from partner organisations: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Financial assistance for home efficiency improvements (such as loft or wall insulation, replacement high-efficiency boiler or heating control upgrades etc.) may come from grants from the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), Council assistance and incentive schemes, energy supplier trust funds, benevolent trusts, flexible home improvement loans, depending on eligibility and available funding.
Engaging with the public on the subject of keeping warm and well is seen as a key part of our service by funders. Our outreach includes delivering talks to lunch clubs, single parent groups, carers meetings (including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia cafes), retirement or 50+ groups etc. and attending events such as Information days, health and wellbeing fairs and flu clinics.
We deliver training and briefing sessions to front line staff. This is aimed to increase awareness of fuel poverty and its implications and ultimately to develop the ability of people to be able to identify those in fuel poverty and to know of the help and assistance available. In the past we have delivered training to reception and housing staff with councils, tenant engagement officers within housing associations, Fire and Rescue Services, health and wellbeing professionals and community groups so they are also able to spread the message our service is promoting.