Saturday, 23 February 2013

A guide to reducing energy costs and keeping your home warm and healthy

Keeping Warm in Winter
A guide to reducing energy costs and keeping your home warm and healthy
Some people find it difficult to keep their home warm and comfortable, especially with rising energy costs. This guide is designed to help you reduce your energy bills while still keeping your home warm and comfortable.
How to keep warm and healthy during cold weather
Why is it important for me to keep my home warm?
Living in a cold, damp home can:
-     Weaken your immune system, meaning that you are more likely to suffer from cold-related illness such as bronchitis, flu or pneumonia
-     Make conditions such as asthma worse
-     Affect blood pressure and increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack
-     Increase the risk of accidents
-     In extreme cases lead to hypothermia, where the body temperature drops to such a low level that it is unable to function properly
Those who are most at risk of developing health problems are older people, babies, and those who are sick or disabled.
How warm should my home be?
To be sure of avoiding these health problems the room in which you spend most time (usually the living room) should be and 21° C (70° F). The ideal temperature in the other rooms is 18°C (64°F).
How can I keep my home warm?
There are a number of things that you can do to help keep your home warm and your energy bills affordable.

Getting the most out of your heating system
Understanding the type of heating system you have in your home and how to use it properly can help keep your home warm and energy bills affordable. Usually homes will have central heating fuelled by gas or oil; or storage heating fuelled by electricity.
·        Oil or Gas Central heating

Central heating is designed to keep all or most of the house warm from a single, central point of heat, such as a boiler. Boilers use a variety of fuels such as oil or natural gas to heat water which is carried around the home through pipes. The heat is then emitted into the room, usually through radiators.

It is important that central heating is controlled as much as possible to make sure you have heat when you need it, but not when you don’t. This will make sure you only use what you need and only spend what you need.

Set the timer control so that the heating comes on half an hour before you get up in the morning, and goes off again before you go to bed. If you are usually out during the day, set your heating to go off when you leave the house and on again half an hour before you return.

To prevent it becoming too hot or cold keep any room thermostats at around 21° C in the room in which you spend the most time, and 18° C in any other rooms.

You may also have thermostats fitted to your radiators.
These allow you to control the heat from individual radiator according to your needs. Placing reflective foil behind radiators will help reflect heat back into the room. Move furniture away from radiators so that heat is not blocked.

Remember that your gas boiler should be inspected every year to ensure it is working properly and safely.
Housing repairs ?
·        Storage heating
Many properties that do not have central heating use electric night storage heating. These store heat from electricity supplied at a cheaper night–time rate then release it during the following day.  

Storage heaters will have an input and output control. Using these controls correctly can help you to get the cheapest heat. The input control regulates the amount of heat that is stored up during the night. It should be set higher in cold weather and turned down in warmer weather. The output control regulates the rate at which the stored heat is released. It should be left on a low setting during the day and then turned up in the evening if more heat is needed.

Use this easy guide as a reminder

Using your storage heating controls
Night time
Day time
Set to high in cold weather
Set to low
As for night time
Set to low unless extra heat is needed
As for night time
Set to high

Make sure you are on the right tariff for storage heaters. Storage heating should be run on an off-peak tariff such as an Economy 7 tariff which gives seven hours of cheap electricity between midnight and 7am. You can tell if you have this tariff because your bill will show a day and a night-time reading. Some suppliers now offer an Economy 10 tariff which provides an extra three hours of cheap electricity in the afternoon. Check with your supplier to see if they offer this tariff.
A boost switch fitted to many storage heaters allows instant warmth, but if you use this boost heating outside of the cheap electricity hours you will be paying full rate for electricity consumed. This is VERY expensive.

Room heaters
Room heaters come in many shapes and sizes. Electric heaters are usually more efficient than bottled gas or paraffin heaters and cause less condensation. Further information on condensation can be found later in this document.

Buy heaters with thermostats and time controls and set them according to the instructions.
What can I do to keep the heat in?
Keeping the heat in your home is an important way to keep your energy costs down.
Heat is lost from the home through every surface that is next to the outside, such as walls, floor and roof. Gaps around windows and doors can also cause heat to be lost through draughts.
Some simple tips are:
·        Close curtains when it starts to get dark
·        Make use of sunlight to keep homes warm
·        Close doors to stop heat escaping into other areas
·        Use electrical appliances carefully and choose those with high energy efficiency ratings
Other low-cost measures
·        Loft insulation

Loft insulation placed on the floor of the loft is a cheap way of          reducing heat loss. It can be done by the householder but   protective clothing and a breathing mask must be worn.

Cavity wall insulation
Houses that have cavity walls can have these filled with special insulation material that helps to prevent heat loss. Work must be carried out by an approved contractor.
You may be able to have loft insulation or cavity wall insulation installed free of charge, call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.
·        Draughtproofing
This means filling the gaps around doors and windows. There are lots of different types of draughtproofing strips available for different parts of the home from DIY shops.

·        Simple DIY secondary glazing
This involves adding an extra sheet of glass or see-through plastic to single glazed windows. The simplest and cheapest method is like a tough film, fixed on with tape and shrunk in place with heat from a hair dryer.

·        Hot water tank and pipe insulation
This is another cheap way to reduce heat loss. Tank jackets are low cost and can be bought and fitted by you, a friend or neighbour. Hot water pipes can be insulated with a ready-made split tubing material.
Other types of insulation include Solid-wall insulation, double-glazing and flat roof insulation, but these can be expensive.
For more information on insulation and to find out if you are eligible to receive insulation free of charge contact the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.
Other energy-saving tips
·        When buying new appliances such as fridges, washing machines and lamps, look for the energy efficiency label which will rate the appliance from A-G. Aiming for an appliance with an ‘A’ rating will save you money on running costs
Replacing standard bulbs with energy saving light bulbs can save you around £45 over the lifetime of the bulb.
Remember to switch off any lights when you leave the room and don’t leave any appliances on standby or mobile phones on charge unnecessarily.
·        Other top tips for saving energy
-     Reduce the temperature of your hot water to 60° C
-     Don’t overfill your kettle – just boil as much water as you need
-     Wash laundry at 30oC and do full loads wherever possible
-     Keep internal doors closed
-     Choose the right size of pan for the food you are cooking and for the size of the hob
My home is damp, what can I do?
Condensation occurs when warm, moist air comes into contact with a cold surface, such as a single glazed window or an uninsulated outside wall. When the moisture in the air makes contact with a cold surface it turns back into water droplets known as condensation.
There is no need to worry if there is a little condensation on shiny surfaces in cold weather, but it could be a problem if there are any areas with lots of condensation or that never seem to dry out properly.
Where condensation is severe it can cause problems with mould growth, which can cause or worsen respiratory health problems. It can also damage decorations, furniture and clothes.
Follow these tips to help reduce condensation
·        Close doors to prevent moisture moving around the home
·        Ventilate rooms to get rid of extra moisture, especially the kitchen and bathroom
·        Dry clothes outside whenever possible
·        Keep the whole home warm
·        If mould appears, wipe the surface with a cloth and a little diluted bleach
Important – it is essential to have adequate ventilation in the home. Make sure windows can be opened or there are extractor fans to remove moisture in bathrooms and kitchens. Some heating appliances such as portable gas heaters require permanent ventilation.
Paying for fuel and managing debt
You can pay for your fuel in a variety of ways. These include monthly direct debit, quarterly bills, and prepayment meters. Different payment methods have advantages and disadvantages in terms of the cost of fuel and convenience.
Fuel suppliers only need to read your meter once every 2 years. This results in many people receiving fuel bills that have been estimated, and sometimes paying too much or too little. An estimated bill can be recognised by an ‘E’ next to the reading. If you receive a bill with an estimated reading then it is important that you provide your supplier with an actual reading as soon as possible.
If you are in debt to your energy supplier or struggling to pay your energy bill contact your supplier straight away to let them know you are having difficulties and to agree a repayment plan.
If you have a problem that remains unresolved, contact citizens advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06, or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Other services that can help with debt
Money advice Service:, tel: 03005005000
National  Debtline: , 0808 808 4000
Consumer Credit Counselling Service:, tel: 0800138 1111
Switching energy suppliers
Switching energy suppliers can save between £200-£300 on your energy bills, particularly if you have never switched before.
You can call energy suppliers directly, or use one of the online price comparison websites. If you are using a comparison website then make sure you use one that displays the Consumer Focus Confidence Code. Even if you do not want to switch suppliers, you should call your current supplier and make sure you are on their cheapest tariff.

Energy supplier
Contact number
British Gas
0800 072 8625
EDF Energy
0800 096 9000
RWE npower
0800 980 5525
0800 051 1480
0800 027 2700
Scottish  & Southern Energy
0800 300 111

What help can I get?
There is a range of assistance available for people who are struggling to afford their energy bills.
Winter Fuel Payment
A Winter Fuel Payment is an annual payment to help people with the costs of keeping warm during the winter. For winter 2012/13 a person who was born on or before 5 July 1951 will receive £200. Households with someone aged 80 or over on 23 September 2012 will receive £300. Where more than one member of the household qualifies the payment may be split between them.
For more information on Winter Fuel Payments call 0845 915 15 15 or visit
Cold Weather Payment
Payments of £25 are made to households in receipt of certain benefits when the local temperature is recorded, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
Households do not need to apply as Cold Weather Payments are paid automatically into the same bank account as their Pension Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance. Households should contact their Pension Centre or Job Centre Plus office with any queries about Cold Weather Payments.

Warm Home Discount and other assistance from your energy supplier
The Warm Home Discount scheme offers discounts on electricity bills for eligible households. In 2012/13 this discount is £130. Some older households will automatically receive the discount but others will have to apply.  For information call the Warm Home Discount line on 0845 603 9439 or visit
If you are in receipt of certain benefits, are over 60, are chronically sick, disabled, or have hearing or visual impairments you can benefit from a range of free services from your energy supplier under their Priority Services Register, including free gas safety checks, regular meter readings, having your meter moved somewhere it is easier to access, and priority reconnection if your supply is interrupted. Each supplier has its own Priority Services Register, and you need to contact them directly to ask to be placed on this register.
Energy suppliers also offer a range of additional support to their customers, such as free or discounted insulation. Contact your supplier for further information on any of these schemes.
The Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation
The Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO) are new sources of funding for energy efficiency measures. In some cases the Energy Company Obligation can provide  free energy improvement measures for some households. For more information on the scheme, or general energy advice, call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.
Home Improvement Agencies
Home Improvement Agencies are locally-based organisations that assist vulnerable homeowners and private sector tenants to repair, improve, maintain or adapt their homes. They assist older households, families where a member is living with a disability and other disadvantaged households. They can offer services such as checking if the householder is eligible for any financial help, and helping to make a home more energy efficient. To contact your local Home Improvement Agency call Foundations on 0845 8645210 or visit
Your Local Authority
Local Authorities have the power to inspect properties under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System to enforce improvements where housing poses a serious risk to health and safety. Extreme cold, damp, and mould growth, are all considered to be risks. If you rent your property from a private landlord and are concerned about any of these risks contact the Environmental Health Officer at your local council.
Some local authorities also run their own fuel poverty schemes.
For general advice on grants and other energy efficiency information contact the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234

For more information
Action for Social Integration
1st Floor, 45-51 The Market Square
Edmonton, London
N9 0TZ
Tel: 02088036161

Friday, 15 February 2013

TEN TOP TIPS to help you keep a warm and healthy home

to help you keep a warm and healthy home

1. Insulate and draught-proof your home
Insulating your loft and walls where possible will reduce your energy needs and save you money.  Draughtproofing reduces unwanted ventilation. If your home has draughty windows, doors or a letterbox then seals can be easily fitted to reduce unwanted ventilation.  Avoid blocking air vents.
2.   Check your eligibility for insulation and heating improvements
Households in receipt of certain welfare benefits may be eligible for free assistance for heating and/or insulation improvements; all other households may be eligible for reduced cost measures.  Also consider having a benefit entitlement check as it may help with eligibility for services.
3. Change your behaviour
Make simple behavioural changes that will help you to save energy and save money.  Switch lights off when not in use.  Keep your curtains shut at night to keep the heat in and open in the daytime to allow radiant sunlight in.  Have a shower instead of a bath.  When cooking, choose the right size of pan and lid and use a slow cooker where possible. 
4. Seek fuel debt advice
If you are having difficulty paying your energy bills, then get advice.  Energy suppliers should agree an affordable repayment plan with you. The “ability to pay” under this plan refers to what you can afford not what the supplier suggests. 
5. Register for priority services
Energy suppliers and network operators keep a Priority Services Register for householders with special medical or communication needs. Services may include special assistance during power cuts, talking fuel bills and special controls. 
6. Control your heating
If you have heating controls and timers, make sure you can use them correctly.   This includes using the timer so the system only heats the home when it is needed.   Ask for help from friends, family or a local energy champion if you are unsure.
7. Control your hot water
If you have hot water controls then use them.  Avoid leaving electric immersion heaters on for a long time as they are expensive to use.  If your hot water cylinder doesn’t have a jacket, purchase one for around £10 and you can save up to £20 a year on your energy bills. 
8. Use appliances efficiently
Turn off appliances when not in use and avoid using the stand-by facility as this wastes energy.  Only boil what water is needed in your kettle. A microwave uses less energy than an electric oven on full power.  Defrost your freezer regularly and keep containers filled with water in it if it is not filled with food. 
9.  Condensation problems
Warm air on a cold wall can lead to condensation mould growth.  Ventilate your home as much as possible.  And remember; try not to dry washing on radiators but on a rail in a room with a closed door and open window.  Try not to use portable liquid propane gas (LPG) heaters – they produce a lot of moisture. 
10. Check your energy use and look for the best deal.
Monitor your energy consumption and cost.  Avoid estimated bills by supplying your own meter readings if necessary.   
Make sure you are getting the best deal on your gas and electricity costs.   To help you do this, use a switching site displaying the Consumer Focus Confidence code.   For solid fuel, bulk/bottled gas or oil, get a number of quotes and ask around for bulk buying cooperatives.  These could help you secure a better price.   Also be aware of the regulations protecting you.


·    Home Heat Helpline – provides advice on benefits, information on schemes available for home heating and insulation and special payment options energy companies provide to help those struggling with their fuel bills.
Tel: 0800 336 699                                                 Web:

Register for Priority Services
If you are in receipt of certain benefits, are over 60, are chronically sick, disabled, or have hearing or visual impairments you can benefit from a range of free services from your energy supplier under their Priority Services Register, including free gas safety checks, regular meter readings, having your meter moved somewhere it is easier to access, and priority reconnection if your supply is interrupted. Each supplier has its own Priority Services Register, and you need to contact them directly to ask to be placed on this register.
Energy efficiency advice

Energy Saving Advice Service provides impartial advice to all households

·         Tel: 0300 123 1234 (local rates apply)
Warm Home Discount
People receiving age or income-related benefits may be eligible for a Warm Home Discount, either automatically or on application.
Tel: 0845 603 9439 or visit

Best deal for energy costs
Consumer Focus publish a list of accredited switching agencies on their website:
For advice on switching supplier call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on: 08454 040506

Benefit entitlement checks
·         Your first point of contact should be your local authority benefits team or Citizens Advice Bureau.
·         Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) may provide this service locally.
·         Tel: 08444 111 444
·       Web:
·       Other agencies such as the Department for Work and Pensions (see local phonebook) or voluntary sector agencies such as Age UK (Tel: 0800 169 6565) may also provide advice for some households

Off-grid consumer protection
If you have a complaint about a supplier of heating oil or LPG your first contact should be with Citizens Advice Consumer Service on: 08454 040506

Fuel debt advice
·         If you are having difficulty paying for electricity you should contact your supplier direct. You can also get advice and guidance from the Home Heat Helpline: 0800 336 699

Home Improvement Agencies
These are locally-based organisations that assist vulnerable homeowners and private sector tenants to repair, improve, maintain or adapt their homes. They can offer a range of services such as helping to make a home more energy efficient. Call Foundations on 0845 8645210 or visit

Our Vision and Services

Our vision is of a society where no one should experience discrimination on the grounds of their mental health.

Mental health problems are extremely common across society, with one in four of us experiencing them in any year. Despite being so common, people from all communities will still experience discriminatory attitudes and behaviours that can prevent people from speaking out, seeking support and playing full and active roles in our communities. The impact of mental health stigma and discrimination will vary between communities as mental health has a cultural context that affects the way communities talk about the subject and engage with people who have mental health problems. In some cultures depression, for example, doesn't exist and in others an experience of a mental health problem can be attached to a sense of shame.

For the African and Caribbean communities a key issue is the overrepresentation of young African and Caribbean men in mental health services. Misconceptions and stereotypes have led to a perception that this group is more likely to pose a risk of violent behaviour and, as a result, they are more likely to be treated as inpatients and sectioned when compared to other groups. It is well documented that this has led to a fear of talking about mental health issues more openly and a fear of using mental health services. Research by the Race Equality Foundation (2011) also highlighted fears that discrimination against Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) communities and migrant service users will increase in the austerity climate and whilst commissioning arrangements change.

Our Services

· Provide information, advice, advocacy

· Represent diversity communities in Health Care services, policies and strategies

· Organise training in health and social care in collaboration with local colleges

· Provide human resources ( including interpreters) who are suitable to the diversity communities especially to break language and cultural barriers

· Provides domiciliary care and support

· Provide services such specialised support for people with mental health needs, including people who suffer from short-term memory problems, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

· Provide visits to elderly people and help them with outings and home services

· Participate in local authority and NHS consultations , research events and programmes to voice the needs of diversity communities.

· Increase access to services and rights for disadvantaged people and the most vulnerable of our society

· Help and support unemployed people to look for work, including training and job preparation

· Provide legal advice in a range of issues from on Immigration and Asylum , welfare benefits, housing, health, education, community care, and training, employment, etc.

· Provide advice and guidance, information and practical help so that our service users can access opportunities they are entitled to

· Organise training and other community learning opportunities that provide new skills, increase confidence and motivation

· Support our service users to overcome barriers to learning, employment and training

· Provide support for young people with their education, training, confidence building, employment and social needs.

Objectives of our Diversity Living Programme:

· To promote the inclusion and participation of diversity communities* in integrated care.

· To inform policy, locally and nationally, and assisting in the formulation of effective policies, strategies and good practices in integrated care in order to contribute to improved health outcomes for the people from the diversity communities (e.g. Black and minority ethnic communities) and to ensure health services are able to meet their specific needs.

· To improve the quality of life for diversity people with disability, mental health problems and their families and carers through integrated care by providing inclusive advocacy and information.

· To provide service that enable diversity groups and individuals with disability /elderly and their carers to make the right choice for themselves and have an influence on decisions made about their future.

· To promote the rights of diversity people with disability, their families and carers and make sure their rights are safe and protected.

· To promoting access to information regarding healthcare issues and to raise awareness of the needs of diversity disabled children, young people, older people and their families.

· To promote the rights of older and disabled diversity people, helping them overcome and enable them to participate in decisions about their future

· To provide support and information to those suffering the isolation and loneliness that can be associated with disability and old age

· To fight against mental health stigma in refugee, black and minority ethnic communities and ensure no one should experience discrimination on the grounds of their mental health or disability.

*Diversity communities are older people, disabled people, Black, Asian, refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and other ethnic minorities.