Hundreds of people a year could be left living in cold homes when an advice service closes its doors, it has been claimed.
North Wales Energy Advice Centre is closing at the end of the month after Flintshire Council withdrew funding for the social enterprise, which helps vulnerable people who struggle to pay their energy bills.
The company’s staff have supported a total of 9,332 people through free impartial advice, including more than 1,300 residents on low incomes who have received Affordable Warmth grants to carry out home improvements.
The service was initially set up in 2002 as part of West Wales Eco Centre, before the environmental charity’s reorganisation in 2013 resulted in a number of redundancies.
However, operations manager Steve Woosey and one of his colleague decided to use their redundancy money to restart the firm and continue to help people across the region.
Mr Woosey said that four people employed at the service’s office on Mold Business Park will now lose their jobs, while two further staff members will continue to be employed by the local authority. He said:
“Every winter across north Wales hundreds of people die just because it’s winter. At least a third of those are attributed directly to cold and damp homes.
It’s frustrating that we’re not going to be able to help people and that nothing’s going to be done about it either. We help everyone from elderly people, people with families to quite a lot of single parents and people on benefits.”
The service mostly assists people from the Flintshire area, but also carries out work in other parts of the region, including Denbighshire and Conwy.
Mr Woosey said it had saved householders an average of £325 per year through Affordable Warmth grants, as well as achieving significant reductions in carbon emissions. He said:
“One of the things that really gets me is every now and then you get someone who says: ‘Nobody has ever provided us with any help before’.
They’re in tears and they put their arms around you because you’re going to do something for them, that’s the hardest thing of all.
What we’ve done in Flintshire has been unique and very successful. I don’t claim to get to everybody, but it’s an important group of people and they’re not going to get help any more.”
Flintshire Council said it now intends to move the service in-house. Chief officer for planning, environment and economy, Andrew Farrow, also thanked the service for its ‘invaluable work’. He said:
“We have reviewed our service level agreement with North Wales Energy Advice Centre to provide support for domestic energy projects. We have found that we can deliver this service more efficiently in-house.
The council would like to thank the Energy Advice Centre for all the valuable work they have provided to residents of Flintshire over the past years and we will draw on that experience moving forward.”
However, Mr Woosey fears the company’s expertise will be lost and hopes it can still continue in some capacity. He added:
“What I want is for someone to change their mind and continue a service of this sort while we still have the expertise around to be able to resurrect this. It really is essential as at the end of the day it keeps people alive.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter.