Local Charities Day 2016

Friday 16th December 2016 is the first Local Charities Day; created to celebrate small, local charities and community groups, help them thrive and demonstrate the great work they do in their areas. As a small local charity ourselves we wanted to mention some of the work we do and then highlight some of the amazing local charities we work with.

We are the Environment Centre, commonly known as tEC. We’ve been working in the promotion and practice of environmental sustainability for 23 years today! We are involved in a variety of projects in Southampton and Hampshire, with a particular focus on helping individuals and communities reduce their energy usage, save money on their bills, stay warm and well, and alleviate fuel poverty. There are 12 of us in the team, with most of out and about each day doing home visits, running advice drop-ins and delivering talks and training. Have a look around our website for more information on the projects we run and advice we offer.

Video screen shot_tEC team

Team photo (L-R): Laura, Jo, Ariadni, Zaki, Adam, Christabel, Helen, Steven, Becky. Not in photo: Alison, Sheryll, Luke. Photo credit: Robert Hull.


We are lucky to partner with some incredible charities in Southampton:

  • Citizens Advice Southampton – Provide free, confidential & independent advice. The advice available helps people to resolve their debts, benefits, housing, legal, discrimination, employment, immigration, consumer and other problems.
  • SCRATCH (Southampton City and Region Action to Combat Hardship) – Provide services which relieve the effects of hardship, disadvantage and poverty for individuals and families living in Southampton and the surrounding area. These services include furniture and household items, Christmas gifts for children, redistributing surplus food, paint donations and welfare advice and support.
  • SCM (Southampton City Mission) – They run Basics Banks in Southampton providing emergency food and clothing to those in need, as well as delivering schools work across the city.
  • Alder Trust – Provide consultancy, research, project delivery support, and networking events; promoting the work of others alongside developing and leading their own services.
  • SSJ Handy Person+ – Provides a trusted maintenance and repair service for older people and other vulnerable people living in the city in their own privately owned/rented accommodation. This service enables people to stay living independently in their own homes and reduces the stress and anxiety that maintenance issues can often cause.


We work with some excellent organisations in Hampshire:

  • WinACC (Winchester Action on Climate Change) – Works to cut the carbon footprint of Winchester district, creating lower energy bills, healthier lifestyles and stronger communities.
  • HIWCF (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation) – An independent charitable foundation that connects donors to the local causes and charities they care about.
  • Citizens Advice Hampshire – Support the independent Citizens Advice Bureaux in Hampshire, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, by identifying and developing options for improving services across the county.
  • Blue Lamp Trust – Promote and enhance community safety in Hampshire, through the Bobby Scheme, funding bids to reduce crime, the fear of crime and the risk of fire in the county and the Driver Education and Training facility.


If you need further advice and information in Southampton, see the Advice Southampton website and the Advice Southampton partners:

  • Age UK Southampton – Support independence and wellbeing and improve the quality of life for older people living in Southampton. Provide Information and advice for older people, volunteering opportunities, befriending, health and wellbeing programme, gardening service and computer classes.
  • Citizens Advice Southampton – As above.
  • CLEAR – Aim to improve the quality of life for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Southampton, providing free advice and supporting people in accessing local services to which they are entitled. They believe in empowerment through education, and in practical action to support established and developing refugee communities.
  • EU Welcome – Help arrivals to Southampton from the new A8 countries of the EU. Provide advice, signposting and support. Also organise and assist with cultural and social events to help with integration of those new communities with other established communities in Southampton.
  • No Limits – Offer free and confidential information, advice, counselling, support and advocacy for children and young people under 26 who live in Southampton and Hampshire. All services are confidential and free to young people.
  • SARC (Southampton Advice & Representation Centre) – Specialise in welfare benefits law and employment law, offering a wide variety of support on these issues to residents of Southampton and Eastleigh. SARC is a registered charity with a Community Legal Services Quality Mark.
  • SVS (Southampton Voluntary Services) – SVS is the umbrella body for local voluntary and community groups working in Southampton, proving them with independent support and a voice. They offer advice and guidance to both individuals and organisations, including information on funding, charity law, working with committees, volunteers, publicity and many other aspects of voluntary or community work.

Hitting the Cold Spots: Dorothy’s Story

Dorothy is a widow in her 90s, who lives in rural Hampshire in a park home. She contacted us, after hearing about Hitting the Cold Spots from a Village Agent, because her boiler was unsafe to use and she was unable to afford a new one.

tEC image_boiler safety warning

As Dorothy lives in a park home and her boiler is fuelled by LPG bottles, it can often be difficult to find funding for heating work through traditional energy efficiency schemes. However, through recently awarded funding for rural communities, the Hitting the Cold Spots service was able to help.

After an initial visit and assessment, the Hitting the Cold Spots Advisor helped Dorothy make an application for rural funding and referral for a grant from SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) because her late husband was in the armed forces for over 25 years. The Advisor also helped Dorothy arrange quotes from Buy with Confidence heating engineers for replacing the boiler.

Both funding applications were successful and therefore Dorothy’s replacement boiler was fully funded and installed in time for the cold weather. She said,

“It would have been a struggle to get the new boiler without your help. It warms up quicker and the hot water comes quicker than with the old boiler.”

If you or someone you know is struggling to stay warm and well this winter, and could benefit from our help, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Working with the Proactive Nursing Service

Southampton Healthy Homes feedback_LC_full

If you or someone you know is struggling to keep warm or pay energy bills, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on
Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Hitting the Cold Spots: Ray’s Story

tEC image_storage heaterRay found our number from the Hitting the Cold Spots webpage, and gave us a call because his flat was very cold and he and his partner were struggling to stay warm. The electric storage heater they used to heat the flat had broken two years previously and they had been without heating since then. Ray is a pensioner and had recently recovered from cancer; he was already receiving the Warm Home Discount.

A Hitting the Cold Spots Advisor visited Ray to complete an application for funding, and also provided them with an electric blanket. Funding was approved for two new storage heaters, and the Advisor helped Ray get quotes from Buy with Confidence approved electricians, who completed the work.

As well as helping with the heating, the Advisor arranged a visit from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and assisted Ray with an energy supplier price comparison, which showed they could save money by switching.

Ray was really pleased with all of the advice and support:

“Hitting the Cold Spots has really helped. We had no heating for over 2 years. We wouldn’t have had it done without you. The electric blanket was a godsend.

With your help we’ve also changed electric company and saved lots of money. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service came and fitted smoke alarms.”

If you or someone you know is struggling to stay warm and needs our help, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Southampton Healthy Homes: Christopher’s Story

tEC image_wireless thermostat_SHHChristopher called us after receiving a letter from us about the first-time central heating grant. They were interested in having central heating installed as the home was only being heated by one gas fire and the hot water was heated by an electric immersion heater. Due to Christopher’s health he was not able to work so the household were not able to afford to install central heating.

A Southampton Healthy Homes advisor visited to fill in the grant application form, along with one of tEC’s Domestic Energy Assessors, so an EPC was produced for the property. The EPC recommended replacing the current gas fire with a condensing boiler and central heating system.

The household was awarded funding from the government’s first-time central heating grant and from Southampton Healthy Homes. Along with a contribution from themselves, this meant they could have the central heating installed in their home for the first time.

The new heating system in their home also had a wireless programmer and thermostat so this could be moved from room to room to allow them to be able to control the heating system from the room they were in. In addition to the new heating system and general energy advice, our advisors were also able to refer Christopher to Citizens Advice Southampton for consumer advice.

The central heating changed the energy rating of their home from a F35 to a C74, reducing the estimated annual energy costs of the home (as shown on the EPC) from £1,532 to £599.

“Everything was very quick and painless – someone comes to your house and explains everything and advises on the best and most efficient way to heat your home. They even gave a list of reputable firms to get quotes from, and they were very good. It made a huge difference to us as we wouldn’t have been able to pay for a full gas central heating system at this time without them.”

If you or someone you know is in a similar situation, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Hitting the Cold Spots Winter Launch 2016-17

HTCSAs the weather starts to get colder and clients may be struggling to stay warm and well, we would like to remind support services across Hampshire about the Hitting the Cold Spots service and the help we can offer.

The Hitting the Cold Spots service 2016-17*:

  • Home visits from a Hitting the Cold Spots adviser offering advice and practical support.
  • Support with alternative heating measures (electric oil filled radiators) if household is without heating.
  • Help to access funding, where available, for boiler repairs and replacements. Delivered through trusted ‘Buy With Confidence’ contractors.
  • Access to small grant support to help cope with winter fuel emergencies.
  • Eligibility check for the Warm Home Discount and local energy efficiency schemes.
  • Assistance to switch energy provider or tariff to help save money on household fuel bills.
  • Signposting and referrals to other organisations, such as: benefits and debt advice, home safety visits and healthy living services.

Visit the project webpage for more details on this offer.

Eligibility for the service is assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration tenure type, financial circumstances, ill-health and other household vulnerabilities e.g. age, disability and young children.


Already this year the Hitting the Cold Spots team have been busy working with over 70 eligible households to make essential heating and/or hot water upgrades and to install first time central heating. Hampshire residents have also received advice about tariff switching and have been referred to other services for further help.

We’ve received excellent feedback from clients we’ve recently supported:

HTCS quote3     HTCS quote6

To make a referral to the service you can call Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri 9-5) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com. We will take further details about the client (please ensure you have permission to share client details) and discuss how we may be able to help. If you think it would be beneficial to your client, we can arrange joint visits, and we can keep you updated on the outcomes of our support.


If you want to find out more about Hitting the Cold Spots, we can also*:

  • Attend team meetings to speak to staff or volunteers about how we can help clients.
  • Train front-line staff on recognising the signs of fuel poverty and the support available to help clients stay warm and well.
  • Visit community events and meetings to give energy advice to clients and take referrals for the service.
  • Provide leaflets for you to promote Hitting the Cold Spots to clients.


Please feel free to circulate this information on to colleagues, clients, friends or family members who you think might benefit from the service.

*Some of the above services are subject to availability and conditions apply.

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Are you eligible for the Warm Home Discount 2016-17

tEC image_save moneyWhat is the Warm Home Discount?

The Warm Home Discount is a scheme providing eligible households with a £140 electricity bill discount for winter 2016-17. This discount is available to credit and pre-payment customers, providing your supplier is part of the scheme and you meet their eligibility criteria. The scheme is open to applications now and it is worth applying early to ensure you get it.

Who is eligible?

There is a Core Group who are automatically eligible and don’t need to apply. These are householders who were receiving Guaranteed Pension Credit on 10th July 2016. If you have been awarded Guaranteed Pension Credit since then you will need to apply for the Warm Home Discount yourself.

If you don’t meet the criteria for the Core Group you may be eligible under the Broader Group and will also need to apply yourself. Eligibility criteria varies slightly between energy suppliers but is usually based on low income, means tested benefits and a vulnerability in the household e.g. disability or child under 5. You can check the individual eligibility criteria with your energy supplier or by clicking the links below.

Which suppliers are part of the scheme?

How to apply?

You need to apply directly with your energy supplier, you can find their contact details through the website links above. Depending on the supplier you can apply online, by phone or by post.

Park Homes Warm Home Discount (edit Dec 2016)

There is a Park Homes scheme now open for applications, for park home residents who meet the eligibility criteria. Apply to Charis Grants either online here or by phone: 03303 80 10 40 (Mon-Fri, 9-5).

If you have any further questions about the Warm Home Discount or would like more advice about reducing your bills and keeping warm you can phone us on Freephone 0800 804 8601.

Kerry’s internship at tEC

tEC image_Intern_KTKerry interned with us for three months over the summer, working alongside our Energy Advisors, on a variety of projects in Southampton and Hampshire.

During her internship Kerry was able to take part in home visits and advice drop-ins, contribute to and deliver communication materials, analyse and map project data, research options for colleagues and clients, as well as day-to-day tasks within the office.

Kerry said,

“My internship at the Environment Centre gave me the opportunity to put the skills I had learnt at university into practice in a real work setting. The team helped me to settle in quickly and were there to answer any questions I had.

Throughout the internship, I had the chance to work on several exciting projects which allowed me to develop my professional skills, as well as learn about energy efficiency and how it can be improved in the home. My internship covered a wide range of tasks, including research projects, providing advice to clients and data analysis, all giving me valuable experience to add to my CV.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at tEC, and would like to thank the team for helping me to settle in and teaching me so many new things. Keep up the fantastic work that you all do!”

We really appreciated Kerry’s hard work, and wish her all the best for the final year of her degree.

Southampton Warmth For All: Project Achievements

tEC image_SWFA drop-in YMCAProject Overview

We have just finished delivering a one year project aimed at reducing fuel poverty in Southampton, and would like to share some of the achievements. The project was funded by the Scottish Power Energy People Trust and it allowed us to continue to deliver our fuel poverty outreach work across Southampton.

Through the project local residents were given support through a variety of settings such as home visits, appointments, events and workshops. This support included:

  • Advice on reducing energy usage at home,
  • Help switching energy tariff or supplier,
  • Dealing with fuel debt,
  • Applying for grants and discounts,
  • Draught proofing (including free materials),
  • Tackling condensation and mould.

Project Highlights

  • Households given face to face support = 797
  • Home visits and appointments = 81 home visits and 50 appointments
  • Events attended = 25 promotional events, 40 drop-ins and 10 workshops
  • Households provided with free energy efficiency measures = 502
  • Total perceived cost savings from energy efficiency measures = £24,285/year
  • Total savings from switching energy provider = £6,080/year
  • Other grants secured for households e.g. Warm Home Discount, ECO, Water Assistance = £22,900
  • Households assisted with fuel debt = 48
  • Referrals made to other organisations for additional support = 147
  • New Home Guides given out = 2,230


From a client attending one of our presentations:

I thought I knew it all, but after I had listened to your presentation at Southampton Mencap Carers Lunch, I realised that I still had a lot to learn. The best bit is that I applied for the Warm Home Discount for my son who is in receipt of DLA, and within a week he was sent a letter stating that his account will be credited with £140 before 31st March 2016. Thank you very much for an interesting and worthwhile presentation.

From an event organiser where we did a drop-in session:

Thank you to you and your colleagues for attending our sessions recently. My colleagues received some good feedback from families, who said the information they received was very helpful.

From a local agency who refers clients to us:

That is fantastic – thank you so much – really helpful as always!

Even though the Southampton Warmth For All project has finished, we can still help households in Southampton (and Hampshire) with these issues. So, if you or someone you know is struggling to keep warm and well, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Hitting the Cold Spots: Fiona’s Story

Fiona from Eastleigh called us with concerns about her rising gas costs.  We arranged for one of our advisors to visit to help her to understand her fuel bills and to provide information on savings that could be made through completing an energy price comparison and changing to an alternative fuel tariff.

Fiona had a number of medical conditions which made her more susceptible to feeling the effects of the cold as this had a detrimental effect on the levels of pain that she experienced, together with her ability to undertake many activities of daily living.  It was particularly important to her to keep her home warm.  Following a recent period of prolonged ill health, it had also been necessary for her to have her heating on for longer than normal.  This contributed to her using more gas and experiencing higher costs than she would normally have experienced in this time.

The advisor noticed during the home visit that Fiona’s fuel accounts were based on estimated readings.  Before undertaking the price comparison exercise, it was important to be clear about how much fuel Fiona was actually using.  The advisor read both meters and confirmed this information to her fuel supplier.  Through using this information to compare different tariffs, Fiona learned that she could make significant savings of around £160 over the year by switching to an alternative tariff with the same supplier.  At the same time, she was also able to fix her fuel prices for the next two years.

Fiona now feels much more reassured by the fact that her fuel prices over the next two years would remain unchanged and that she would therefore be protected from future price increases that may occur in this time.

Fiona said,

“I am most grateful for you finding a cheaper tariff.  The advice provided with changing supplier is likely to save me up to around £160 across the year.  I’m so pleased that I’ve now got my fuel tariff settled for the next two years; it’s taken a worry off my mind. 

I was very pleased with the help and attention that I received.  My Advisor was very understanding of both my personal circumstances and my situation.  I’m absolutely delighted; I’m over the moon!”

If you or someone you know would like help with switching tariff or supplier, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.