This week marks the 12th annual Gas Safety week. At the point we are all switching on our heating, it is of course a timely reminder that, it should not just be affordable but also safe and efficient. As a sector, Home Improvement Agencies make sure vulnerable people have access to properly qualified and approved contractors. All will therefore ensure that any work and checks on gas appliances and people’s homes are carried out by Gas Safe registered installers. 

However, the collaboration between the sector and Gas Safe goes much deeper than that.  For the past 8 years the Gas Safe Charity has ensured that agencies across the country have access to hardship funds to repair and replace appliances and heating systems and pipework with a minimum of fuss. The partnership between The Gas Safe Charity and Foundations Independent Living Trust remains a unique and innovative example of how small national charities can work to their strength and enhance their impact by working together. 

Rather than maintain costly and cumbersome bureaucracy to administer individual grants, Foundations organises an annual bidding round for Home Improvement Agencies who can apply for what is effectively a local hardship fund administered by the agency. As caseworkers and technical officers come across dangerous or faulty gas appliances and systems or are contacted by plumbers condemning a boiler in the home of a vulnerable person, there is an immediate source of funding to address the issue and a repair may be carried out; sometimes on the same day. Foundations Independent Living Trust only asks the local agency maintains a record to ensure people are eligible by dint of vulnerability, poverty and nature of the danger. The scheme is therefore able to address safety issues, affordability concerns and maintain the thermal comfort of the most vulnerable older and disabled people in our community. 

Over the past 8 years, the scheme has helped nearly 10.000 people and given away over £1.5M. With an average grant of £150, this again goes to show that some of the most effective help need not be hugely costly. It is also a testament to the commitment and acumen of the Gas Safe Charity board which from a humble pilot in 2013 have encouraged the growth and evolution of the scheme. It has challenged Foundations to ensure something like it covers the entire United Kingdom.  It has asked us to target mobile homes and particular vulnerable groups.  It has encouraged agencies to ensure match funding so the benefit reaches more people and is able to top up statutory grants. 

I also must declare a very personal interest in the partnership between the Gas Safe Charity and Foundations. I was approached by board members of the charity after a presentation I did on Electrical Safety in 2012.  We looked for ways of working together and align purpose. I have to admit that for me in the early days it was as much about raising the capacity of agencies to write effective bids as it was about designing efficient, fair and accountable grant giving or improving Gas Safety. However, as our partnership with Gas Safe has matured and the programme grown, it is the social value we have created that I am most proud of. In a career spanning over 30 years, it is quite simply one of the best things I have had the privilege to be involved in.