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Mapping the need for debt and energy advice following Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced household incomes across Great Britain. The British Gas Energy Trust (BGET) recognises that many more households are struggling to meet their outgoing costs, including fuel bills. The impact of the crisis is increasing demand on the money & energy advice sector, and now as the UK falls into recession for the first time in 11 years the need for wide spread, accessible support and advice on income maximisation, debt management, energy efficiency and financial support is even greater. Some groups, including those already in vulnerable situations, have been harder hit by the resulting economic crisis and many more families will face increased need over the year ahead, especially as the additional costs of winter begin to hurt already fragile household budgets.

Earlier in August in response to the economic fallout of the pandemic, the British Gas Energy Trust (BGET) launched a £800,000 Covid Response Fund to help support additional “front-line” money & energy advice services, the Trustees and myself as CEO were looking to target the fund towards areas of Great Britain with the highest levels of unmet need for advice.  In order to ensure that the Covid Response Fund targeted the areas with the highest levels of unmet advice need, the Trust commissioned the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) to conduct research to help build an enhanced understanding of the UK advice landscape during and after the pandemic.

The resulting Advice Need Index combined a number of indicators that suggest a higher need for advice including the prevalence of household indebtedness, employment in the most affected sectors, lone parents and indicators suggesting high fuel costs. Following the report and by utilising  additional informational from the existing BGET programmes and other sources, the Trustees decided to open the Fund in 9 key funding areas.  Not for profit advice services were invited to apply for grants to continue or grow their vital services, with the funding closes for applications on the 19th of August, and grants will be awarded w/c 14th of September to deliver services between October 2020 and June 2021.

The full report can be found here and contains maps at national and regional level showing the geographical spread of advice need; these are presented alongside maps showing advice provision currently funded by BGET and coverage of major energy advice providers. It is hoped that by sharing this report openly, other funders and organisations may be able to benefit from the information it contains.

With thanks to British Gas for their support:

“The British Gas Energy Trust has a long heritage of supporting those who need help to get out of energy debt, as well as providing support to help them remain debt free going forward through funding a range of energy and money advice organisations.  The impact of the pandemic continues to be felt in households across the UK and I hope that today’s launch of a new COVID response fund, focused towards areas with a greater vulnerability to the impacts of COVID-19, will help ensure that the important work of these advice services reaches those who need it most.” (British Gas)

Jessica Taplin, Chief Executive Office, British Gas Energy Trust