As a Community Interest Company, Catalyst Mutual Enterprise (Catalyst CIC) was set up with a vision – to help eliminate fuel poverty in our community.
The use of energy is an integral part of life nowadays that it is easy to take for granted the ability to heat and lights our homes at the flick of a switch. But it is the cost that has become a primary concern for so many of us and the struggle to pay our energy bills is one that we can all identify with.
Overwhelmingly, however, it is the most vulnerable of us that are finding it almost completely unaffordable – the elderly, disabled and low-income households, who are most at risk, are finding themselves unable to keep up with the rising costs of energy and falling into fuel poverty. It is these vulnerable consumers who are often the most disengaged from energy markets, not knowing how to access help and suffering from living in cold homes. The poor housing conditions that lead to energy inefficient cold homes can have severe impacts on lifestyle and, consequently, on mental and physical health.
Catalyst CIC feels that the underlying causes of fuel poverty are threefold:
- The rising cost of energy,
- Energy inefficient homes and, in particular,
- A lack of awareness and understanding of energy use in itself.
It is this lack of awareness that Catalyst CIC works to address in our range of services and working with partners such as the Department of Energy and Climate Change – as part of the Big Energy Saving Network – and local authorities, among others, in a coordinated effort to deliver help and advice to vulnerable people.
Catalyst CIC believes that tackling the issue of fuel poverty requires a holistic approach that coordinates between sectors, but also allows those affected to be able to gain some measure of control over their situation. While there are schemes in place – e.g. ECO, Warm Homes, Priority Service Register among others – awareness of their existence and accessibility or eligibility to them is limited.
As such, we provide a local, area-based outreach and engagement programme that is designed to enable vulnerable consumers become energy literate and make informed decisions about reducing their energy use as well as take up any discounts or help available to them. We not only provide advice and information, but also actively help and support our clients to follow through with action e.g. by helping them switch, apply for discounts or contact their energy providers to follow up on their queries. We even provide home visits to better understand our client’s situations.
As an extension of this service, we also provide training for staff who work at the frontline of social and health care to enable them to help those vulnerable people they come into contact with in their line of work on a day-to-day basis. Our training develops their energy literacy with knowledge of the impacts of cold homes and equips them with the skills to provide basic advice, information and referrals to support services that can help their clients.
Awareness and understanding of energy use can go a long way to allow fuel poor households to take some measure of control over their situations and exert an impact of their own – to manage their behaviour around energy use, to access the help they are entitled to and to sustain a culture of knowledgeable, rather than passive, consumption. And we strongly believe that changing the culture is vital to our goal of eliminating fuel poverty.
For more information and details, see our services.