The climate emergency affects everyone. It has a disproportionate impact on people and communities that already experience various forms of disadvantage and marginalisation. This includes women, disabled people, people who experience racism, and people on low-incomes.
For National Inclusion Week, we’ve gathered some highlights from the programmes we deliver across the UK and internationally that are working to support those who are often most marginalised in our societies.
Reaching vulnerable communities in Wales and Northern Ireland
Our programmes in Wales aim to reach all parts of society to ensure everyone can access and benefit from support. The Nest scheme has supported a diverse range of people across Wales, and our partnerships with a variety of organisations help ensure widespread awareness of the scheme, which offers free, impartial advice and, if you are eligible, a package of free home energy efficiency improvements. Partnership Development Managers play a key role in building these relationships, helping us reach those who need support by collaborating with organisations such as Age Cymru, Mind Cymru, Stroke Association, and more.
Information on the Nest scheme is made available in several formats, including easy-read, braille, audio, large print and in multiple languages. This is supported by Language Line to provide interpretation for people whose first language is not English or Welsh, as well as minicom and the Next Generation service being available for D/deaf people and people who experience speech difficulties. All this underlines the Nest scheme’s commitment to adhere to the values of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, including collaboration, integration and prevention.
The Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP) provides financial support for households on low incomes to make their homes more energy efficient. Around 80% of its funding is targeting customers who otherwise might not be able to insulate their homes. The programme’s 19 domestic schemes help householders install energy efficient heating systems, cavity wall and loft insulation.
Ensuring accessible travel in Scotland
The Scottish transport workplan is aligned with the National Transport Strategy, which is focused on taking climate change action as a core priority, while also reducing inequalities, to deliver inclusive economic growth and improve people’s health and wellbeing.
Our active travel programmes, including the eBike Loan, eBike engagement and eBike Grant Fund, are focused on making cycling accessible and affordable to all, with a particular emphasis on disabled people, rural communities and disadvantaged groups. As an example, on 25 August, the Scottish transport team hosted an online event supporting cycling for disabled, older and rurally based people.
Similarly, the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) Support Fund is available to help those who may find preparing for the introduction of LEZs the most challenging. The fund provides financial support for low-income households and micro businesses towards the disposal of non-compliant vehicles and the provision of sustainable travel modes, which can help them to save money and enhance local air quality.
Additionally, the Plugged-in Communities Grant Fund offers funding for not-for-profit housing associations, housing cooperatives and constituted community groups in Scotland to procure the services of a zero-emission car club vehicle for use by their tenants and the wider community. The programme specifically targets transport inequalities by increasing access to zero-emission vehicles among those from low income households, providing travel options where choices may be more limited and normalising the use of electric vehicles.
Embedding inclusivity in Efficiency for Access’ work
Efficiency for Access and its flagship initiative, the Low Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) programme makes enormous efforts to embed inclusivity and accessibility in its work.
Globally, more than one billion people need one or more assistive products, which can help them to lead a healthy and productive life. However, over 900 million people who require these products lack access to them. Access to assistive technologies, such as hearing aids, communication switchboards and mobility aids is also far lower in developing countries, especially for women and children.
In March, Efficiency for Access published a research paper ‘How can energy access programmes address the needs of people with disabilities?’. Authored by Richa Goyal, senior insight manager and research co-lead at Efficiency for Access, the note provides guidance to energy access practitioners on the ways in which their efforts can best address the needs of disabled people. The report auto-tags each section, which helps people with visual impairments read the report.
To amplify the report further, we created a checklist for both energy access programmes and off-grid appliance manufacturers to help ensure that their work addresses the needs of disabled people. We also hosted a webinar that explored how the energy access sector can best address the needs of disabled people.
Overcoming communication barriers in Scotland
At Home Energy Scotland, which is managed by Energy Saving Trust, we understand it can be hard for some people to access information due to language or other barriers. We work with regional equality councils, community groups and our network of partners across Scotland, to help us reach people of all ethnic groups. We continue to seek new partnerships to make sure our energy and money saving assistance reaches far and wide.
We’re a partner of Happy to Translate, the initiative that supports organisations to engage with people who speak little or no English. In addition to translating information about Home Energy Scotland into other languages, braille and audio, callers to our advice centres can have a three-way conversation with an advisor and an interpreter in their chosen language or BSL, and we can arrange an interpreter for home-visits.
No matter what language our customers speak, where they’re from or what barriers they may face, we make sure we can clearly communicate so they receive quality service, energy and money saving advice and the support they need.
Through Home Energy Scotland, we’ve also been working in partnership with Scottish Water since 2017 to help households in Scotland save water, energy and money. This year, as part of our water saving programme, we worked with Deaf Action in Scotland to help make our water saving advice brochure more accessible.
For someone who uses British Sign Language (BSL), standard English could be their second or third language and for them, written English can be hard to understand. Adapting our communication materials into BSL is very important for inclusion, and we have now translated our water saving advice brochure into a series of eight simple and comprehensive BSL videos.
Helping charities through the Energy Redress Scheme
Since the Energy Redress Scheme launched, Energy Saving Trust has awarded nearly £30 million to fund over 170 charities across England, Scotland and Wales. These grants have enabled charities to deliver projects that help energy consumers in challenging situations to save energy and money in their homes and to live warmer, more comfortable lives.
Delivering low carbon transport funding to diverse audiences
A significant portion of the 2021/22 Department for Transport workplan is focused around providing tailored, equitable support for organisations of all sizes and types, especially those that find it difficult to access support elsewhere.
The eCargo Bike Grant Fund provides funding to help small businesses and sole traders to invest in electric cargo bikes to enable their everyday transport operations. Support for SMEs and micro-businesses is especially important in the current climate, as they are more likely to have been negatively impacted by Covid-19 than larger organisations. This financial year, the programme covers 40% of the total cost of an ecargo bike, double the amount offered last year.
Another of our flagship programmes that we deliver on behalf of Department for Transport is the On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS), which provides grant funding for local authorities to install plug-in vehicle charging infrastructure for residents with no access to off-street parking. The ORCS scheme is particularly important because in many parts of the UK, off-street parking is unavailable to residents, particularly those living in urban areas. This funding is enabling electric vehicles to become more accessible to a wider, more diverse audience.
Supporting minority ethnic community groups
We’re a partner in Local Energy Scotland – a consortium that manages CARES, the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme. CARES gives communities, businesses and other organisations advice and funding in all aspects of local, renewable energy. We have an Equalities Charter and an action plan that directs our work and ensures it’s fair and inclusive.
Following feedback from workshops with minority ethnic groups, we identified a barrier to many faith groups applying for funding due to one of the funding criteria. Since making a change, we’ve been encouraged that more minority ethnic groups have taken up the support CARES offers. This includes Inverness Masjid, which installed solar panels and battery storage at its mosque, cutting its energy bills and carbon emissions. The cost savings it makes are reinvested into its work, which contributes to a wider positive impact across the communities it serves.
We support both rural and urban communities. From small communities in remote locations with fragile electricity grids, to towns and cities where indexes of multiple deprivation are higher, CARES has ensured communities have access to renewable power for their community’s needs.