Luton radio station starts campaign to fight fuel poverty during Covid-19

Helping people escape the trap of fuel poverty is the aim of a new campaign by a Luton radio station.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 12:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 12:28 pm

Diverse FM will use a £19,960 grant from UK Power Networks to give bill-saving advice over its airwaves and create a new team of energy champions speaking various languages.

The team will support people in and around Luton who might otherwise miss out on essential help.

Luton is one of the top five fuel-deprived towns in the east of England.

Diverse FM are working to tackle fuel poverty in Luton
Diverse FM are working to tackle fuel poverty in Luton

Citizens Advice estimate 600,000 people in the UK have been plunged into fuel poverty during coronavirus.

Diverse FM broadcasts on 102.8FM to more than 20,000 listeners, and executive director Ashuk Ahmed is determined to build on the station’s existing work in the community - providing food parcels and other essential items to the most vulnerable individuals and families.

Mr Ahmed said: “Diverse FM was founded back in 2000 because a number of young people across the community in Luton wanted it to happen.

"We have grown a lot in that time, but since Covid-19 we’ve become more and more aware of people locally needing our help.

“We know of a lot of people who are struggling to pay their fuel bills. There are people who can’t afford to heat their homes, sitting there wrapped in a blanket to try and beat the cold.

“Our presenters will highlight the support available along with the playing of jingles and adverts. We’ll also produced short awareness-raising videos for social media to signpost people to the advice on how to reduce energy bills.

"We’ll have multi-lingual volunteers going out to people’s homes if it’s possible after lockdown, or, if not, setting up calls with them to directly provide information as it’s a big issue.

“We have a multicultural audience, we’re the most listened-to radio station in Luton, so we want to reach everybody so they know the help on offer to them and that includes all the main faith groups in the town as we feel this project can make a real difference.”

In the fourth round of funding from UK Power Networks’ Power Partners scheme, nine not-for-profit organisations and community groups have secured a combined tally of around £180,000, to help combat the growing issue of fuel poverty during the pandemic. The aim is to support community services to reach more people with help including energy efficiency advice, tariff switching and support for frontline charity workers.

Giulia Privitera, social sustainability strategy and programme manager for UK Power Networks, said: “Our fuel poverty strategy is built around the evolving needs of our customers and relies on creating strong partnerships with local organisations like Diverse FM who deliver energy advice and support out in the communities where it is needed the most.

“Since 2019 our Power Partners projects have explored new ways to tackle fuel poverty and have already made a real impact for people who struggle to pay their energy bills. The growing financial difficulties caused by an unprecedented pandemic means that providing accessible and timely support in helping energy consumers cut their costs is more important than ever.

“For this reason, we decided to increase the funding granted for the fourth round of Power Partners to be able to support more individuals or communities who are experiencing emerging vulnerabilities or entering into fuel poverty as a result of the pandemic. Year on year, through our Power Partners and other energy saving initiatives, UK Power Networks continues to deliver tailored support for hard to reach communities that otherwise could have been left behind.”

The fund, administered in partnership with leading energy justice charity the Centre for Sustainable Energy, is open to not-for-profit organisations and community organisations. For more details email [email protected] or call 0117 934 1400.

UK Power Networks also runs a Priority Service Register which people living in vulnerable circumstances can sign up for, to get free extra help if a power cut ever happens. To apply visit www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priority, ring 0800 169 9970, or email [email protected]