Please click here for language/accessibility options

Breaking down barriers through innovative energy project

Scotland’s leading environmental charity is supporting the country’s minoritised ethnic communities thanks to funding from British Gas Energy Trust.

Changeworks, which has over 35 years’ experience in delivering high impact solutions for low-carbon living, works with its communities across Scotland to drive transformation in energy efficiency and tackle fuel poverty.

Its low carbon communities team has successfully delivered a pilot project for British Gas Energy Trust, with funding now secured for a further two years. The Energy Saving for All project is run in partnership with the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations (CEMVO) and aims to break down barriers so people can access energy advice.

The project’s initial success was the topic of conversation when Miles Briggs, MSP for Lothian, visited one of the British Gas Post Office Pop-Ups in Edinburgh in January.

Isa Kristiansen-Bragg, Changeworks’ Low Carbon Communities Team Manager, said the project, through its network of volunteers, is helping to build capacity within diverse community groups across Scotland.

Isa said:

“It was a really good conversation. Miles was really engaged and is clearly passionate about our area of working. The main thing we did was highlight that our work is not just about providing advice to people who are easy to engage with. It’s about stepping back and seeing where there are gaps in energy support.

Minoritised ethnic communities are more likely to be in fuel poverty and therefore more at risk than others when it comes to the cost-of-living crisis and energy price increase. However, they’re also likely to experience challenges accessing mainstream energy advice due to language barriers, but also trust barriers too. The aim of our project with British Gas Energy Trust is to build an understanding of how energy advice organisations such as Changeworks can make its services more accessible to these groups.

We’ve found that when we started working with certain groups, these barriers were significantly higher than we first thought, and it highlighted the need for us to tailor our support to them.

Through the engagement we’ve had so far, it’s been a really enriching experience for us to learn and adapt to a wide variety of challenges and circumstances faced by these groups. We’ve learned that it takes more time to build trust, meet community members, and identify and train volunteers to a point they feel comfortable sharing information. 

For example, we sometimes talk about only boiling the amount of water you actually need when you’re filling up a kettle, but some communities don’t tend to drink hot drinks. You lose that trust and engagement when you don’t tailor your message to people.

Our volunteers work in different ways. Some get the demand ready for us to deliver sessions for people, but some deliver training themselves.

And we’re translating all our energy advice sheets, and it’s been great to see how much of a difference it has made. It removes barriers straight away.”

Changeworks is aiming to change people’s behaviours towards energy and the climate emergency across Scottish communities as the nation makes progress on its journey towards net zero. Last year, the charity supported 67,000 households to take action to decarbonise their homes, leading to more than £4m in savings through income maximisation and energy bill reductions.

Isa added:

“Everyone should be able to access support. A lot of people want to do their part to tackle the climate emergency. It’s important that specific communities aren’t left behind.

We tailor our message for each audience, depending on who we speak to. We try to make our messaging as clear as we can, especially how small changes can help people save money and have a warmer home. For households who need more in-depth support, we’ll look at billing issues, tariffs, fuel debt and help them to access financial support.”

To find money and energy advice local to you, please click here.