An innovative skills development programme from local social enterprise, Scarf, has been recognised with a special award for its approach to tackling fuel poverty in communities across the North-east of Scotland.
Energy Champions, funded by Scarf in association with Aberdeenshire Council and the European Social Fund, helps individuals who have been out of work for an extended period of time to start their journey back into employment by training them as frontline energy advisors delivering advice sessions in their local community.
The programme was recognised with a special runner up award of £1,000 by the judges of the Energy Impact Awards, organised by National Energy Action (NEA) and sponsored by Centrica, owners of Scottish Gas, for its innovative approach to tackling the scourge of fuel poverty in some of the most deprived towns in Aberdeenshire.
Emma Paterson, project coordinator for Energy Champions at Scarf, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been recognised by the Energy Impact Awards and are particularly grateful to the judges who felt that a runner-up prize should be created for us.
“Energy Champions was created to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community find a pathway back to work and also to help us find people in their communities who need our support, but who would traditionally choose not to seek out this help – to receive this award is both unexpected and great recognition for the programme.”
The project, funding for which ends in December this year, has to-date trained 20 Energy Champions in towns across north and central Aberdeenshire, including Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Banff and Turriff, with some going on to paid employment and others taking up volunteering opportunities to build confidence before returning to work.
Steve Crabb, director of consumer vulnerability at Scottish Gas and one of the award judges, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to recognise the vital and innovative work that Scarf is driving to counteract the problems caused by fuel poverty and unemployment.
"The Energy Champions project offers real insights on how we can better tackle fuel poverty and its effects and, most importantly, is improving the lives and prospects of the people it has reached.
“This project goes to the heart of what the Energy Impact Awards are about which is why Scottish Gas has provided this special prize to recognise the work Scarf is doing.”
A cheque for £1,000 was presented to Scarf by Mr Crabb and North-east MSP, Kevin Stewart, at a ceremony in Aberdeen in August. Mr Stewart said Scarf should be “extremely proud” of the difference Energy Champions had made to the lives of people in the North-east.