Cost of living: advice from energy saving expert

Posted: Monday 03 October 2022 at 00:00

As the rising cost of living continues to dominate the headlines, we spoke to Kate Urwin, the founder and director of Yorkshire Energy Doctor. Kate offers independent advice on anything to do with energy, whether it is understanding energy bills, advice on the forthcoming price rises, dealing with energy debts, financial grants or simple energy saving tips.

The company’s overall mission is to improve physical health and mental well-being through making homes warmer and energy bills more affordable.

Kate has been running the company for eight years, but, recognises that things are harder than they’ve ever been – especially for people living with sight loss.

She said: “The government has intervened so the energy price rise won’t be as high as we had feared on 1st October but prices are still double what they were this time last year.”

Despite this, Kate insists there are things that can help. “It is about making sure people are getting access to the support they are entitled to,” she said.

Here are some of Kate’s top tips:

Join the priority services register

“One of the main things we try and do is make sure people are on the Priority Services Register.  Anyone can contact their energy company to make sure they’re on that. Certainly anyone with any kind of visual impairment are eligible to go onto it.

“So, that’s definitely one thing to be promoted to anyone with any kind of health condition or disability or any household that’s got a pensioner in or a child under five years old.”

Winter Fuel Payment top up

One thing we are finding is that pensioners, aren’t aware of the extra money coming this winter from the government to help with energy costs t.  Pensioners are getting an extra £300 per household on top of their usual winter fuel payment. A lot of people just aren’t aware of that and it really helps with general anxiety and concern knowing about it. And there’s also the £400 available to everyone and the £150 to people that get any kind of disability benefit.”

We do want everyone to be aware of scams though around these cost of living payments – the money will be paid to you automatically, you do not have to apply. As such, if you get an email or text message about it then ignore it and definitely don’t give out any personal details.

Save on your energy bills

“Things like turning down your thermostat by one degree will save you the biggest amounts of money, but the trouble is a lot of people are thinking about not turning their heating on at all, let alone turning it down by one degree.

“Some of the things we’re trying to do is people could use a slow cooker for example instead of an oven because it’s a lot cheaper to run. People need to do certain things but could it be done in a way that uses less energy.”

Boost your income

“The things that make the biggest difference are not usually connected to energy, it is about making sure people are getting everything they’re entitled to, in terms of boosting income, such as attendance allowance and other disability benefits. You could do your own benefits check here: https://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/

"Even looking at water bills, if you’ve got more bedrooms than people in your house, you can make some really significant savings on your water bill by getting a water meter. More so than with your energy at the moment.”

Get support from local organisations

“There are a lot of local organisations that people can go to for help. I would really recommend people look for whoever that relevant organisation is and if they’re having problems, ask. A lot of people don’t like to, but there is help out there.

"Most places will have an association of voluntary organisations. Unfortunately they are called something different everywhere you go. They will know everything that’s going on. The local council, or Citizen’s Advice would probably be a good starting point.”

For more tips from Kate, visit the Yorkshire Energy Doctor website or follow on Facebook or Instagram.

The Macular Society’s Working Age and Young People’s service is also on hand to offer advice on your entitlements. For more information about the service contact the Advice and Information line on 0300 3030 111, or email Colin Daniels at colin.daniels@macularsociety.org