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Pop-up success for Scottish islanders

Residents across Britain, including some of the hardest to reach regions, have received support with their energy bills thanks to the British Gas Post Office pop-ups in partnership with British Gas Energy Trust (BGET).

For over seven months, BGET funded organisations have supported 128 pop-up events across England, Scotland and Wales to help people face-to-face through the energy crisis; reaching an estimated 25,000 people.

One of the BGET funded charities that took part was community benefit organisation Tighean Innse Gall (TIG), which helps to support vulnerable people across the Western Isles in Scotland.

With a population of 26,000 spread across 15 inhabited islands, the Western Isles – or the Outer Hebrides as it’s often called – is one of Britain’s most remote places.

We took our pop-ups to Stornoway on the island of Lewis– the largest island of the Western Isles.

Kirsty MacLeod, TIG’s Energy Advice Manager, explains why independent energy advice is much needed on the islands.

She said: “The weather, and the fact we have longer, darker days, really has an impact on life in the Western Isles. When the weather is good, it is beautiful, but our heating season is much longer than most homes in the UK.

“On average, we have much larger homes that are usually detached, which means they’re also harder to heat.

“We also have an ageing population, lots of single occupancy homes and most of our homes are off the gas network so dependent on other fuels, like oil, which is another added cost.

“So when you put all that together with the higher transport costs and the higher food costs, it’s no surprise that many people are in fuel poverty.”

TIG estimate that around 70-80% of people living on the Western Isles are in fuel poverty, according to the charity.

Kirsty and her team help people through providing energy advice – from supporting people to understanding their energy bills and advising on energy saving measures through to referrals to partner agencies and access to financial support where needed.

“We’re here to help in any way we can”, Kirsty adds. “But more often than not, the support we offer is to people who are struggling to heat their homes.

“Where we can, we support direct. But we’ll also work with the local council, the NHS and other partners like Citizens Advice so people can access all the help they need.”

The Post Office roadshows took place over two days, each day supporting around 40 people with independent energy advice.

Kirsty said: “It was busy and we gave out lots of information and supported people right there and then. Many people have come back to us afterwards for extra support and others who couldn’t come on the day have contacted us to say they heard about the support that was available and have come forward to ask for help. So, it’s been really useful.

“We’re really grateful for the support of British Gas Energy Trust and the Post Office. Having this support really is invaluable to our communities.

“We understand that people are struggling, people need to know they have somewhere to go for help and support. Whatever the issue, we’re here to help.”

More pop-ups are planned for later this year (2023) to help households get specialist money advice locally.

Keep an eye on our website for more details when they’re announced.