With rising pressure on household incomes, many people are struggling to pay for everyday essentials such as energy and water. For over a decade, we have been helping families and individuals get back on their feet and remain debt-free through the pioneering British Gas Energy Trust. While the Trust is solely funded by British Gas, it is an independent charity that supports anyone in need of assistance, irrespective of whether they are a customer or not.
In 2015, we contributed £11.6 million to the Trust which helped over 24,500 people in need of assistance. These people were supported through face-to-face financial advice alongside grants that clear energy debt and reduce ongoing costs by purchasing energy efficient white goods. The Trust additionally funds more than 50 specialist energy debt advisers across 25 partner organisations, such as Citizens Advice and Shelter. Not only does this extended framework of support ensure more people benefit from debt advice and grants, it enables easier referrals between organisations, ensuring specialist advice can be provided on wide-ranging issues from energy and employment to benefits and housing rights. The organisations similarly work with GPs and Health Professionals, so that they can refer vulnerable people who suffer from an illness and are also indebted, for advice and assistance.
The alleviation of financial challenges via the Trust also reduces stress and increases productivity, creating wider health, economic and social outcomes. Research in 2015 revealed that 90% of grant recipients experienced a positive difference in their mental health while 65% reported improvements in physical health. We furthermore found that 61% of grant beneficiaries felt their personal relationships with family and work colleagues had improved, in addition to 14% believing their employment situation had got better.
Overall, British Gas has invested more than £85 million in the Trust through mandatory and voluntary contributions which has helped over 173,400 people since 2004. Taking into account the wider health, economic and social outcomes, Oxford Economics calculates that for every £1 the Trust spends, society receives more than £2.10. And where grants have been given to organisations, we see that for every £1 spent, the social return is calculated at £5.50.
Len lives in St Helens, he’s a part-time actor and volunteer in the local community. But when the hot water and heating in his home stopped working, and his kitchen wall got damp, Len didn’t feel like getting out so much. Len spoke to Citizens Advice St Helens, who helped him get a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust to cover the cost of a new boiler, and to get a local firm to fix the damp wall.