Posted: 7 September 2016
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Charity hits home

Leigh Page, Stakeholder Delivery Manager in National Grid Gas Distribution, unveils an innovative new charity partnership to target carbon monoxide safety messages at vulnerable customers.

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Charity hits home

Charity hits home

Steve Smith, National Grid network engineer, with Juanita Murray, food bank manager at Birmingham’s food bank.

"We are increasingly looking at how we can use a range of partners and partnerships to extend our message on carbon monoxide education and safety to a variety of target groups"

Leigh Page, Stakeholder Delivery Manager, National Grid Gas Distribution.

Insight:

Even today, carbon monoxide poisoning – from faulty, un-serviced, or incorrectly installed gas appliances and other fuels – is still responsible for more than 4,000 visits to A&E and 40 deaths every year.

Source: National Grid.

The development of strategies to get potentially life-saving carbon monoxide safety messages successfully out to our customers has long been a key focus for National Grid’s Gas Distribution operation. Even today, carbon monoxide poisoning – from faulty, un-serviced, or incorrectly installed gas appliances and other fuels – is still responsible for more than 4,000 visits to A&E and 40 deaths every year.

Leigh Page_150x225

Leigh Page, Stakeholder Delivery Manager, National Grid Gas Distribution.

We are increasingly looking at how we can use a range of partners and partnerships to extend our message on carbon monoxide education and safety to a variety of target groups. One of our primary aims has been accessing the most-at-risk and hardest-to-reach communities, areas we have identified as carbon monoxide hotspots.

This spring, in a four-month trial partnership with the UK’s leading foodbank charity network The Trussell Trust, we developed and tested an innovative and highly effective new approach to alerting those most vulnerable groups to the dangers of carbon monoxide. The results and feedback have been so positive we are already looking to roll out the initiative in 2017.

The Trussell Trust runs a national network of over 400 foodbanks, giving emergency food and support to the 13 million people who live below the poverty line in the UK. Everyone who comes to a Trussell Trust foodbank is referred by a frontline professional like CAB, housing associations and children’s centres and last year they gave more than 1.1 million three-day emergency food supply packs to people in crisis. Over 90% of food given out is donated by the public and over 30,000 people volunteer at Trussell Trust foodbanks across the UK.

Getting the message heard

This is the first time we have worked with a national charity in this way. The Trussell Trust is a really good fit for us. They can get to people we never could – those who are most worried about where their next meal is coming from, rather than their personal safety. The core strength of our approach is that our educational messages come from people who are trusted by that community so the message gets heard more successfully.

In our pilot programme we worked with The Trussell Trust in nine locations across central England – covering over 30 individual foodbanks in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands. Over the four months, more than 104,000 individuals, including 39,000 children, were helped with nutritionally balanced, three-day food packs.

To help build relationships, our National Grid team briefed and trained each Trust volunteer group on a face-to-face basis. This enables them to work through a carbon monoxide awareness questionnaire with their foodbank users, and provide informational leaflets to help them understand the dangers of carbon monoxide, how to spot the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and what to do about it.

Most importantly, to remove their users from risk, we gave them information on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning – including their rights and the legal responsibilities of landlords for carbon monoxide safety. We also supplied 900 free carbon monoxide detectors to give out where needed as a back-up. The trial is already showing early stage benefits: it has produced contact with several thousand people and over 200 alarms have already been issued to Foodbank clientele.

Generating safety advocates

We are also carrying out carbon monoxide awareness initiatives across our Emergency Field force and with other community organisations, but we wanted to find ingenious methods to get our message out. We kept coming back to the principle that if we could educate people who could educate others, the effect can grow virally and have a big impact.

Hence, we are not just trying to educate the end consumer, but also the volunteers at the centres. The idea is to develop their skills to get them to the stage where they can educate others – creating a group of advocates who can also do things differently themselves at home and with their families.

We believe that we can do a lot more in partnership with The Trussell Trust. It will take time to develop: the trial threw up some teething troubles, but nothing insurmountable. We need to go through a process of refinement to make it more effective, with a view to potential roll out in 2017. This will include:

  • Reassessing the questionnaire to make it as easy as possible for volunteers to use, while still gathering essential information
  • Looking at the data-reporting techniques. Completed questionnaires are posted back to us at the moment and we will begin to look at digital options, including apps
  • Evaluating which type of The Trussell Trust groups we go into have the most effective contact and greatest impact
  • Considering tying-in more closely in geographical areas with greatest carbon monoxide problems

Extending our partnership

In another exciting opportunity for our partnership, some of The Trussell Trust groups are extending their services to bundle together advice on other issues, such as finances and fuel poverty. This includes an Energy Bank concept to which we could potentially link our own Fuel Poverty Initiative. This could work not just within the National Grid footprint, but other gas distribution companies too.

So, if we can get the partnership model right, then I don’t see why we could not develop the relationship further as a longer-term model to support the community, ourselves and other organisations.

Gas innovation in full flow