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The battle to beat poverty
12:00pm Friday 16th August 2013 in News
In the last of our series on the effects of the economic downturn on local communities we look at some of the initiatives aimed at alleviating poverty in the area...
WEYMOUTH and Portland is set to tap into £2million worth of funding to help poorer families keep heating bills down.
In a pioneering Dorset project which will help households out of fuel poverty, tackle health problems and aid the environment, residents will be supported installing cavity wall and loft insulation.
The borough council was asked to sign up to a project with Dorset Energy Advice Centre (DEAC) and Dorset County Council so funding can be secured for an area-based approach to improve the insulation and heating of homes in qualifying areas.
It would be free to most while others will be partly supported.
The management committee approved spending £21,985 to support the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
The committee saw off attempts by some councillors to reject the initiative.
Councillors Ian Bruce and Geoff Petherick said they weren’t convinced it was a good scheme to spend money on.
But housing spokesman Ray Nowak said for a small amount of money there would be considerable investment.
And committee chairman Mike Goodman, inset above, said it was right the council was behind a scheme with the authority’s logo on to give people confidence.
ECO is a grant scheme and a commitment by utility companies to invest funds in reducing carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency in homes.
The scheme is made up of:
• Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation (HHCRO) – for people on selected benefits and low incomes to fund cavity wall insulation, loft insulation and boiler repairs;
• Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERO) – for people in blocks of flats or properties with narrow or uneven cavities to fund solid wall insulation and other remedial works;
• Carbon Saving Communities Obligation (CSCO) – targeting deprived areas to fund cavity wall and loft insulation Initially the scheme would target 330 homes in the poorest wards – Littlemoor, Melcombe Regis, Underhill, Westham North and Weymouth East, before it is rolled out.
A report from DEAC says: “We would be looking to target cavity wall and loft insulation to owner occupier and private rented properties, although there is the scope to also assist social housing if they have a need for this work and a budget to support it.
“The CSCO funding would allow an area to be targeted in a coordinated way, which would in turn allow DEAC to identify occupants who qualify for the other parts of ECO.”
It estimates that £2million worth of funding will be secured allowing for different types of work to be completed.
• BOROUGH councillor Rachel Rogers who represents Littlemoor, one of the areas that will be targeted in the scheme, said: “It’s doubly beneficial because it supports the householder and the environment.
“I would encourage householders offered the chance of benefiting from this grant to take it up.”
However Coun Rogers claimed it was ‘incoherent’ that the council would be helping struggling families with this grant but in April made the decision to force people who previously paid no council tax to start paying a contribution, a move she said was not cost effective.
Team tackling money issues
A HOUSING association has been tackling issues of poverty head on with its dedicated money matters team.
Magna claims that welfare reform has had a dramatic effect on people in Dorset, Devon and Somerset- forcing many people into poverty.
Its money matters team have been visiting residents to give benefits, budgeting and money advice.
Magna resident Lynne Coombe recently joined the team as a volunteer, giving advice to fellow residents.
Lynne has a number of years experience in the role having been volunteering with Age UK, since 2009.
This role involved working with older people to ensure they are claiming the right benefits.
When Magna mentioned it was looking for similar volunteers, Lynne jumped at the chance to become involved.
So far, Sherborne-based Lynne has visited 10 people and is expecting the demand for visits to increase.
She said: “I’m very excited to be working with Magna in this volunteer role, it's an opportunity to make a real difference.
“The welfare reform bill has affected people nationwide with their benefits reduced and has forced people to make some difficult financial decisions.
“The running theme I have noticed so far is that many people have never budgeted before.”
She added: “The under occupation benefit penalty has seen people’s benefit lowered by up to 25 per cent if their property has two or more spare bedrooms, which is a big shock for a lot of people and has forced them to seek financial help and practical assistance with finding a suitable smaller property.”
To contact the money matters team call 01305 216067.
Charity plays a crucial role
A LOCAL charity has spoken out about its role in helping Dorset people get hold of basic furniture.
Second Chance Furniture is able to provide basic furniture, electrical goods and other household items at minimal cost and delivered free of charge.
Manager Jan Knake said: “We are aware of the increasing financial difficulties being experienced in some parts of Weymouth and Portland area. Over the 20 years we have been in existence we have become aware of the psychological as well as the practical benefits of this service to our families.
“Not being able to maintain reasonable home environment can damage a family's ability to function happily and may lead to social exclusion which is so damaging to children in particular and can cause depression and isolation.
“Self-esteem can so easily suffer in what is basically a materialistic society which unfortunately chooses to judge people on their possessions.
“Additionally, we hope to reduce the need for people to borrow money which they can ill afford.”
He added: “It would appear that the ever-tightening benefit system does not allow for the inevitable need to replace household items from time to time, and grants or loans for people on benefit now seem almost unobtainable.”
The store relies on donations of furniture from the wider community.
Second Chance Furniture is run by volunteers, many of whom are seeking work and therefore understand the difficulties of managing on state benefits.
For more information, to volunteer or donate furniture to Second Chance Furniture visit scfurniture.org.uk.
The store is based in Lynch Lane, Weymouth and open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9.30am and 1.30pm.
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