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Blog: How Age Scotland can help you to stay warm and well this winter

Published on 29 November 2021 09:08 AM

As part of our social security campaign, Check in, Cash out, we have been focusing on help with energy bills throughout October and November.

We recently sat down for a chat with Energy Rights Telephone Adviser, Morna Hunter, and Energy Trainer, Suzanne Hainey, to find out how Age Scotland can help older people with energy matters.

Can you tell us a bit about your role and what it involves?

Morna: My role is primarily that of a Telephone Adviser, giving people who call Age Scotland’s Helpline information and advice on a range of topics, including benefits, community and residential care, and legal issues.

I also lead on energy advice for the Helpline which involves giving callers information about how finding the best supplier or deal; making sure people know about benefits and financial support which could help with bills such as the Warm Home Discount, Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments and carrying out entitlement checks for these; and advising callers on energy efficiency and making referrals to Home Energy Scotland (HES) for information about help with costs to improve their home’s energy efficiency.

Suzanne: I am responsible for developing and delivering Age Scotland’s energy training workshops – which we hope to launch shortly. As part of these training sessions, I’ll cover many of the same issues which Morna has spoken about and I will signpost people to the Helpline for tailored advice. I want to make sure that older people know about the support which is available to help them so no one goes without heating this winter.

What was your background before joining Age Scotland?

Suzanne: Before taking a break from work to provide childcare, I was a Community Liaison Officer with Home Energy Scotland. This role involved visiting clients in their homes to provide energy advice and carry out benefits entitlement checks. I also created partnerships with other organisations to allow signposting and delivered training and workshops for the public. Before working at HES, I was with Citrus Energy, a social enterprise which provides advice to help customers save on their energy bills.

Morna: I joined Age Scotland’s team of Telephone Advisers in December 2018 and have recently become the charity’s first Energy Rights Telephone Adviser. Before joining Age Scotland, I worked for Scottish Gas for a number of years in different roles – which included advising customers, dealing with enquiries and complaints, resolving billing issues, and providing training and mentoring for new staff.

What can people do if they are concerned about energy bills this winter?

Morna: People can phone the Age Scotland Helpline for advice on how they could save money on their bills and reduce their energy consumption. I can advise people on small measures which can add up to big savings, refer people who are considering switching supplier to Citrus Energy, send out free thermometers so people monitor the temperature in their home, give advice on draught proofing, refer people to Home Energy Scotland and much more. Age Scotland’s Warm and Well guide, which provides hints and tips, is also available.

Suzanne: Morna has said everything I was going to say! I’d always recommend that anyone who is looking for advice on energy should contact the Helpline.

Are there any misconceptions about benefits which can help people with their energy bills?

Morna: I have found that a lot of older people on a low income don’t realise they can apply for the Warm Home Discount even if they don’t receive Guarantee Pension Credit. Older people who are entitled to receive Winter Fuel Payments should double check they’re getting it as there was issues with automatic payment last year. I would always recommend a benefits check for callers who are worried about their bills, as entitlement to one benefit could passport someone to other forms of support. This is particularly important for anyone with a disability. Lots of our callers might be worried about filling in application forms, but the Helpline can let people know if there’s assistance available in their local area or refer people on to the Department for Work & Pensions’ Home Visiting Team for help with this.

Suzanne: Our Attendance Allowance: completing the form training sessions can help those applying for that.

What’s the most rewarding part of your role?

Suzanne: For me it’s seeing how people’s quality of life improves when they aren’t worried about energy. Small things really can make a huge difference when it comes to energy, and people’s mental health will improve if they aren’t worried about energy bills. Energy is central to people’s wellbeing, and it links with so many things like eating and health – we can also link people up with our Friendship Line and services offering help with food. It’s great to be able to put people’s minds to rest and make a space for people to talk about and receive advice on energy matters.

Morna: It’s always satisfying to provide advice or make a referral and find out the positive outcome of that. Offering holistic advice is a huge part of the work of the Helpline – a caller may ring up about one issue, but due to our holistic approach we are often able to explore other opportunities to help them or uncover financial entitlements they didn’t know they were eligible for.

Thanks to Morna and Suzanne for answering our questions. Make sure to watch this space for details of Suzanne’s forthcoming energy training!

In the meantime, you can find help and advice on energy by calling the Age Scotland Helpline: 0800 12 44 222 (Monday-Friday, 9am to 5pm) and reading our Warm and Well guide at www.age.scot/energy

Check in, Cash out

Every year hundreds of millions of pounds in vital financial support goes unclaimed by older people in Scotland. Our "Check in, Cash out" campaign aims to raise awareness and increase take-up of the social security available to help older people live well.

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