Draughts, rising fuel costs, no heating or inefficient heating systems; what is it that makes us shiver our way through the winter up on Katesgrove Hill?
Reading Borough Council’s Winter Watch, run by the council together with local voluntary and health services, is one of several ways to get help and advice.
Reading residents could qualify for assistance if they are on a low income and
- are in fuel poverty
- are over 60 or
- have very young children or
- have a disability or
- have health concerns.
Winter Watch visits all households who contact them and who qualify for help, or who are referred to them by organisations like the Royal Berkshire Hospital or council departments such as Adult Social Care.
The purpose of the home visit is to determine what’s hindering a resident from living in a warm home.
Work can be undertaken to reduce draughts by using Draughtbusters.
Advice can be given on reducing bills, which may include:
- advice and help on changing the type of meter you have. Prepayment (pay-as-you go or key) meters work out considerably more expensive than credit meters, where customers are billed for the electricity or gas used. The big six energy companies (British Gas, EDF Energy, e-on, npower, Scottish Power and SSE) do not charge for switching from prepayment to a credit meter, but most require a credit check.
- changing how you pay for fuel bills. Paying by direct debit is the cheapest method of all.
- help and advice on switching energy supplier or to a better tariff with your existing supplier.
No heating or hot water.
Emergency heating appliances such as oil filled radiators can be supplied on loan and small plumbing repairs carried out.
Inefficient heating systems.
Advice can be given on home insulation grants as well as the best way to use the heating in your home in an economic and efficient way.
Help is available to those in hardship by making small contributions towards fuel bills.
- The Warm Home Discount Scheme is a government scheme that pays £140 towards fuel costs for those who qualify. The money is paid directly to energy suppliers and reduces the cost of winter electricity bills.
- Draughtbusters, a local voluntary group, can help with draughts and other heating issues.
Reading Borough Council offers loans and grants which might assist with heating improvements. Obtaining finance from these loan and grant schemes is subject to certain conditions and may not always be available as funds are limited.
Flexible home improvement loans
Homeowners aged 60 and over can use the Flexible Home Improvement Scheme (FHIL) to fund heating and insulation improvements. Reading is one of the local authorities that run the scheme as a non-profit company across the Thames Valley. Loans would be registered as a charge on the property with homeowners being able to choose a range of repayment options including interest only, regular or periodic payments and ‘rolling up’ the loan for repayment on the sale of the home.
The FHIL website says:
One of our aims as your local authority is to help improve the warmth, comfort, safety and security of housing in our area.
We have created a loan that will help you remain in a well maintained home during your retirement and you can repay as little or as much of the loan as you like each month.
Flexible home improvement loans are also available to landlords to improve the standard of rented properties for tenants.
- Decent homes grants are designed to bring properties up to the decent homes standard.
- Grants for urgent work affecting health and safety can in some circumstances be used to provide a hot water supply.
Contacts for Winter Watch
Phone: 0118 937 3747
Contacts for loan and grant schemes
Reading Borough Council
Reading RG1 2LU
Phone: 0118 937 3787