Helping vulnerable households fight fuel poverty

The Rexel Foundation continues to support disadvantaged households with Caritas and the Rexel teams in Austria

Austria
2020 to 2021
 

 

Project context

This new project is an addition to previous ones run by the NGO Caritas to help struggling Austrian households and refugees fight fuel poverty. Also initiated by local Rexel teams, these previous projects were supported by the Rexel Foundation in 2014 and 2018. 

This social support project aims to reach new target groups and develop complementary educational tools to help them better manage their energy consumption. It primarily targets low income households, single parents, people with chronic health conditions or the long-term unemployed.

Led by Rexel Austria, the project is carried out by Caritas Austria with technical support from ARGE Energieberatung und Umweltbildung, a Vienna-based association of energy consultants providing services to public/charitable and private clients. It specifically implements strategies for eco-efficient energy use in buildings and helps people maximize energy-related comfort while minimizing energy consumption and financial investments.

 

Project description

Over 1.5 million people[1] in Austria are estimated to be at risk of poverty due to their low household income or material deprivation. This project aims to provide them with key knowledge regarding their energy consumption in order to “help them help themselves.”

Beneficiaries can be identified by Caritas or by other social services and stakeholders such as the Red Cross, the “Diakonie” or other associations. The project is open to all people in need, allowing them to access it directly. It relies on open information sessions and the distribution of educational leaflets.

 

“Energy counseling” information sessions are open to all vulnerable publics

The project includes a weekly information session aimed at people facing poverty or experiencing difficulties in paying energy bills that are too high for their budget. During these workshops they can ask questions about their domestic energy consumption, billing, costs and contracts. The sessions’ goal is to allow beneficiaries to recover control over their energy costs and to acquire basic know-how related to everyday habits such as proper ventilation, heating, the correct setting of refrigerators and freezers, etc. Thus, the project not only helps protect their limited financial resources, but also has a positive impact on the environment.

Each counsellor is both a trained social worker and an academic energy consultant. This allows them to adapt their advice to suit the needs of the beneficiaries.

The information sessions were expanded to new Austrian regions in 2021.

 

Multilingual educational leaflets

In addition, educational leaflets are distributed to beneficiaries in order to help them better understand topics related to energy comfort and savings. They are available in several languages (English, Farsi, Russian, Arabic), and can be downloaded for free.

The Rexel Foundation’s support will allow these leaflets to be supplemented with further topics (such as electricity, heating or hot water billing, switching providers, water consumption, infrared heating, etc.), and also to be translated into new languages and distributed more widely, e.g. via social media.

In cooperation with the Vienna Social Fund (a Viennese community organization), a series of training courses were organized for translators to ensure that they accurately convey knowledge and content.

 

More on Caritas Austria

Caritas Austria was founded in 1976 by Cardinal Franz König. It exclusively pursues non-profit and charitable purposes including social and charitable work, disaster aid at home and abroad and cooperation on development work to effectively fight poverty. Its mission is to help those most in need, including those suffering from fuel poverty.

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[1] Statistik Austria : poverty and social inclusion

 
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