Just before Christmas, Mr and Mrs M’s 20-year-old back boiler developed a leak and broke down. Replacing the boiler was simply not an option for the couple who were surviving on minimum income and not eligible for a government grant. With temperatures below zero in their home, the couple struggled through the winter, huddling together for warmth with their pet dog.

Concerned, their local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) referred the case to our Affordable Warmth team. We provide a free service to people at risk of fuel poverty, which includes practical advice on heating bills, heating grants, insulation and other energy efficiency support.

Home visit

We began with a home visit to assess the situation. Mr and Mrs M were already very organised. They had already taken advantage of offers to install insulation in their cavity walls and their loft. They were managing their electricity account via a key meter which helped them to budget, and they were consciously limiting their energy use wherever they could, in order to save money.

Unfortunately, the couple had assumed gas-bill arrears from Mrs M’s mother, whose house they inherited after her death. They were repaying the arrears through Fuel Direct.

The couple were doing so many things right but when their boiler broke down, they hit a brick wall. Our job was to figure out how they could secure the funds to sort out their heating.

Hands-on assistance

As Mr and Mrs M received their gas supply from British Gas, they were eligible to apply to the British Gas Energy Trust for help with fuel arrears and boiler replacement. Although their CAB officer had given them a form, so that they could apply to the Trust, they had not made the application.

We helped them to apply and they were successful. Together we secured £3,064 for a new condensing gas combination boiler.

We were eager to see the boiler in before Christmas so we negotiated with the gas engineer and the boiler was installed four days later.

Warm and debt free

As well as the funding for the new boiler, the couple received £334 to clear their inherited gas arrears. They were finally back on an even keel financially, no longer worrying constantly about meeting this extra payment.

“I just cannot thank you enough – this has changed our lives. We couldn’t have lived through another winter without heating. We send our thanks and appreciation for all the care and concern shown to us by Changeworks.”

Mrs M

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