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Thousands in Islington are helped to keep warm and save £3 million on bills

A pioneering programme has helped 10,000 Islington residents survive cold weather and saved vulnerable residents around £3 million on gas and electricity bills.

The Seasonal Health Interventions Network (SHINE), run by Islington Council, began in December 2010 and brings together 90 Islington organisations to deliver a well winter programme and tackle fuel poverty.

As well as heating and insulation improvements, residents can apply for energy bill discounts and help dealing with debt to energy and water companies. SHINE will make its 10,000th referral this autumn.

Each year an average of almost 60 people die in Islington due to winter conditions, more than die in suicide and accidents put together. An estimated 17,500 Islington households live in fuel poverty and five Islington wards have the highest fuel poverty scores in London.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council's executive member for environment and transport, said: “Fuel poverty remains a serious problem in Islington, with thousands paying high bills and struggling to keep warm.

“We’re committed to helping residents cut energy bills and SHINE has helped save £3 million for local people since it launched five years ago.

“There’s still much more to do and we will continue to help residents cut bills and stay warm.”

Cold homes are only part of the picture and befriending services, falls prevention assessments, fire safety checks and much more available through SHINE.

SHINE’s work has been nationally and internationally recognised and was influential in the high-impact winter deaths prevention guideline issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) earlier this year

The breadth of SHINE’s work is illustrated by the following two cases (names have been changed):

Mehret, a 50-year-old mother-of-five in poor health, was referred to SHINE by the council’s Resident Support Team. She was being pursued by bailiffs for gas and electricity debt and was living in a damp, overcrowded home. Several family members were suffering from lung disease worsened by the mould growth. The SHINE team helped her move to a better flat, worked with the council’s Welfare Rights Team to help the family on to the right benefits, secured carer support for Mehret’s eldest daughter and successfully applied for £2,800 of debt to be written off.

Craig, a vulnerable 62 year old man, was referred to SHINE by social services. He had been discharged from hospital after pneumonia treatment to find that he had no heating or hot water after building up debt on his meter whilst in hospital. As a result he was living in one room of his house with a small electric heater, worsening his health and threatening a return to hospital. The SHINE team helped to negotiate a fair repayment plan for the debt, added him to his energy company’s vulnerable customer register, and secured him a £140 Warm Home Discount on his annual bill. Craig’s home is now warm and he’s happy that he can have a hot bath!