Island community tackles the fuel crisis

Short film released today, shows how residents are being supported to cope with soaring energy prices.

Every week, inhabitants of Holy Island in Northumberland are encouraged to come along to the Warm Hub held at Crossman Village Hall, to socialise, enjoy refreshments and learn about how they can save money on their energy bills.

The initiative is one of many rural projects being piloted by members of the ACRE Network; charities providing practical support to rural community groups and alleviating hidden disadvantage across England.

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The small rural community, otherwise known as Lindisfarne, is no stranger to meeting its own needs. Residents must wait until the tide has receded to reach shops and services on the mainland, so creating opportunities for residents on the island is considered very important.

Putting aside the fantastic coastal views and rich heritage that visitors flock to each day, many of the island’s c.180 inhabitants are beginning to feel the pinch as the cost of living – and specifically fuel prices – soar.

Sarah Hills, local vicar, and enthusiastic volunteer at the Warm Hub confirms these fears. Speaking on camera for a short film about the initiative, released today, she said: “I think it’s quite an issue, particularly for older people who live by themselves and are often on low incomes. I’ve noticed people in their living rooms, but their kitchen and bathrooms are freezing. If you’re frail, going from warm to cold can be disorienting and can cause people to fall. We’ve also got some single mums with small babies and it’s tough for them too.”

An estimated 6.3 million households in England are estimated to be in fuel poverty. In the predominantly rural county of Northumberland where many homes are older and harder to heat, it is currently estimated by that there are 41,085 households in this situation: equivalent to 28% of all properties[1]. It is also a country where 360 households are completely off grid, many of whom rely on oil fuelled generators and heaters which are not covered by the Ofgem price cap.

It is hoped that Warm Hubs, a concept pioneered by Community Action Northumberland, can provide welcome relief to people in the countryside struggling to pay their bills.

Christine Nicholls, Community Development Worker for the charity explains: “We have people come to us who say they’ve not had a hot meal for over six months. People are desperate and trying to manage by themselves. We have over 20 active Warm Hub groups across the county that are trying to help. They provide warm, safe and friendly spaces where anyone can enjoy refreshments, social activity and get information and advice, all in the company of other people. It’s about reducing isolation and supporting people to cope with the difficulties they are experiencing”.

Notes to editors

Media contact: Phillip Vincent 01285 425645

The short film about Holy Island Warm Hub has been produced by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE).  It is a national charity working with 38 organisations including Community Action Northumberland to speak up for and support rural communities. Members of the ACRE Network together reach over 35,000 community groups annually, and lever in over £34 million each year in support of rural communities.

[1] Fuel poverty statistics were provided by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition of which ACRE is a member.

We have people come to us who say they’ve not had a hot meal for over six months. We have over 20 active Warm Hub groups across the county that are trying to help.