Now, with that purpose still at our very core, we operate throughout the North East in partnership Scottish Government and local authorities in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee, Moray and Perth and Kinross.
Delivering services aimed at supporting householders and organisations, Scarf has broadened its scope to focus not only on energy spend at home but also within communities and businesses, and how all customers can generate their own energy through renewables technologies.
Although initially formed with the financial cost of energy use as the primary concern, Scarf has embraced the challenges set by the increased awareness of the environmental cost through carbon emissions and overconsumption.
As a result, Scarf now delivers a range of free and impartial advice services, including:
- In-home, in-depth advice to homeowners and tenants on fuel debt, supplier switching and effective use of heating systems.
- Access to grants and funding available to improve the energy efficiency of homes and business premises.
- Bespoke, specialist renewables advice for homes, businesses and community groups.
- Information on sustainable transport and water use.
Almost 20,000 households reached, estimated reduction of over 60,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2019-20.
Since its inception in 2008, the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Scotland programme has been delivered by Scarf in the North East. The phone-based service is the gateway to grants and funding for energy efficiency improvements available through local and national schemes, while also offering general advice on reducing carbon emissions and fuel spend. In 2019-20 alone, Scarf reached almost 20,000 households through the service, to an estimated reduction of over 60,000 tonnes of CO2.
In the effort to alleviate fuel poverty, free home visits have been a key, long-standing part of the Scarf advice service. Funded and supported by local authorities (in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross), Scarf operates their Home Energy Advice Team (HEAT), providing a hand-holding advocacy service for householders.
HEAT advisors can act on behalf of clients to set up first-time fuel accounts or switch to cheaper suppliers or tariffs. When switching, the advisor will highlight suppliers that offer the Warm Home Discount Scheme in instances where the householder is in receipt of qualifying benefits.
The management of fuel bills is a challenge for many homeowners and tenants, and HEAT advisors will communicate with suppliers to settle fuel debt disputes, and demonstrate taking meter readings to help customers budget for their bills month to month.
On a practical, hands-on level, advisors can demonstrate to householders how to set programmers, timers and controls so that heating systems are used only as and when needed – something which many have no prior experience doing.
Martin Hall, Operations Manager at Scarf, said: “It is rare that people are taught these things: how to set up and manage fuel bills, deal with suppliers, understand their heating system. Suppliers do provide information but with so much out there it can be challenging to find what is relevant, especially as more services are moved online, where some customers can feel a little uncomfortable.
“It is our job to cut through all that information and be a trusted source to find just the details the customer needs to heat their homes effectively while spending as little as possible.”
“Fuel poverty is a problem in itself, however, it is typically only one of many challenges facing low-income households”
While existing advice services prove vital to helping people throughout the North East, Scarf has launched a new offering, by investing in its own crisis fund to help householders in an emergency. The Scarf Heat Fund offers prepayment meter top ups and temporary heating to those in need, administered by Scarf advisors. Working in partnership with charities and third sector organisations across the North East, Scarf is also part of a signposting network which can direct householders to further support beyond that required to heat their homes.
Lawrence Johnston, Scarf’s Business Development Manager, explains: “We value our partnerships as a means of reaching and helping more people. Fuel poverty is a problem in itself, however, it is typically only one of many challenges facing low-income households.”
Collaboration with food banks has been particularly beneficial.
“To ‘heat or eat’ is an incredibly difficult decision for people to make and one they should not have to. Food and fuel poverty often go hand in hand, so the referrals we receive from and make to food banks helps the customer on both fronts.”
Scarf is now looking forward to another successful decade fighting inequality and changing lives. With an experienced, knowledgeable staff, Scarf also takes pride in its company culture, and has been named in the Sunday Times Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For list six out of the last seven years.
Mr Johnston said: “Of course, helping people out of fuel poverty is incredibly rewarding, knowing that you have had such a positive impact on individuals, families and communities. We always seek to celebrate our work and our staff, and look forward to doing so for many, many years to come.”
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