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South West charity supports thousands with funding from British Gas Energy Trust

A charity has helped wipe out more than one million pounds of energy debt thanks to funding from the British Gas Energy Trust.

Navigate Charity is a founding member of the Wis£rmoney partnership, delivered by Navigate, Encompass South West and Mind in Somerset, providing specialist one to one support for people experiencing social isolation and financial hardship in Devon and Somerset.

The team equip individuals and communities with the knowledge, skills and capabilities to overcome their barriers through high-quality, accessible advice services.

The charity first received funding from British Gas Energy Trust in 2015, and since then has directly supported almost 3,000 people, manage £4.4m of debt, write off £1.3m of that debt and maximise people’s income by further £1.4m.

Mel Allen, Navigate CEO, said the funding has allowed them to enlist the support of specialist mental health workers from charity Mind, enabling them to reach more people and have much more of an impact in the communities where they work.

Mel said: “We specialise in providing one to one support in people’s homes, helping those who might otherwise struggle to access money advice.

“Some people lack the digital skills or resource; some people might be able to get information but not act on it. That’s where we can step in.

“It’s important to recognise not everyone is the same. Giving energy advice can often be complex, very structured, quite intense and fairly intrusive, especially for those unable to access advice in the traditional way. It can be incredibly difficult.

“All our advisors are mental health and first aid trained, but working with specialist mental health advisors, who provide additional individual support, means we’re able to see hundreds more people each year.

“So much now is online. But for a lot of people, these services are inaccessible. During the pandemic, when you couldn’t get out, many people transitioned to online services because they had to. But there were many people who simply didn’t. There are still lots of people who don’t have a mobile phone, don’t have broadband, don’t utilise online banking and get paper statements through the post. For these people, they can’t get the advice many others are getting or act on it. That’s why this support can be so vital.

The funding has also allowed the charity to work closely with Encompass South West, which specialises in housing and homelessness issues. These partnerships allow Navigate to offer support tailored to each person, and to build a network of providers ready to offer support for vulnerable people.

Mel added: “Through this practical support, we can build what we call a ‘wellbeing resilience plan’ to help people manage their anxieties and their feelings around money, and specifically their energy.

“Our support offer is holistic, looking at all aspects of people’s lives and the support they might need to move forward – and often this takes time. Sometimes, we can be working with people for up to twelve months.

“We don’t set timescales on things – it’s all at the pace of the people we support. It’s about taking the time to understand them, their situation and their needs. It’s not about fitting square pegs into round holes.”

To find out more, visit Navigate’s website  or to find British Gas Energy Trust funded money and energy advice near you go to Fuel and money advice – Local centres – British Gas Energy Trust