Winter Crisis fund tackles fuel poverty in Cambridgeshire

The Hopkins Homes Winter Crisis fund was established to respond to the growing number of people across Cambridgeshire who are in fuel poverty, defined as those who are struggling financially and therefore having to make the choice between heating their homes or feeding their families. A staggering 11.5% of Cambridge households were fuel poor in the latest government statistics, making Cambridge the 6th worst of 47 local authorities in the East of England. The fund provided grants of up to £300 to cover heating costs, purchase warm clothing for children, or provide flooring for their homes.

A total of 84 recipients received £21,000 worth of grants, spread across the three districts of South Cambridgeshire, East Cambridgeshire, and Huntingdonshire. Despite being one of the wealthiest areas of the county and the UK, around half of the applications received were for residents of South Cambridgeshire. 39 grants were to provide carpets, many for those on a low income who had moved into social housing which had no flooring. The impact of health issues and trauma on recipients’ ability to afford heating for their homes was a common challenge facing grant recipients. Disabilities, mental health issues, bereavement, domestic violence, and terminal illnesses all affected their financial situations and their wellbeing.

Individuals in need were referred by local charities, such as housing associations and Citizens Advice Bureaux, who assessed their needs and provided other support from counselling to energy saving advice. The fund was set up by Hopkins Homes, a family-run housing developer operating throughout the Eastern region, and is managed by Cambridgeshire Community Foundation, a Cambridge-based charity connecting local donors to local charitable projects.

Cambridgeshire Community Foundation, CEO Michael O’Toole said: “It’s estimated that in localised areas of East Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and South Cambridgeshire the percentage of households in fuel poverty reaches levels ranging from 16% to 22.8% which is up to double the national average, a statistic I find quite shocking. Since the Hopkins Winter Crisis Fund was launched, we’ve received applications from across the county and the requests for help rise as the weather turned colder. It is great to be working with Hopkins Homes in helping people overcome the impact of fuel poverty.”

Joshua Hopkins of the Hopkins Charitable Fund said: “We work closely with local community foundations to ensure our donations reach those most in need. During this work the foundations highlighted the additional pressures faced in winter by vulnerable people as the colder weather exacerbates so many physical and mental wellbeing issues. Even in affluent areas such as South Cambridgeshire there are still many who struggle to pay their bills or heat their homes. I’ve been very moved by the stories of the people who have been helped this winter and hope that grants from our Winter Crisis Fund will have gone some way to improving the wellbeing of those households.”

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