To support this vital work Power to Change has launched a new programme of flexible funding and bespoke advice for the sector.
Many people are suffering this winter, a fall in real disposable income, the cost of many goods including food rising faster than household income, hikes in energy bills, and many households choosing between heating and eating as a consequence. Community businesses are once again on the frontline, tackling the growing local demand for help. 11,000 resilient community businesses operating in England contribute to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of communities, with 95% saying it’s their primary purpose.
In response to their communities’ needs, community businesses have diversified their offer to deliver “warm banks”, free or subsidised food services, fuel poverty support and advice, or free activities for children during holidays. However, demand for these and other vital services cannot be met without additional support.
Tackling economic and climate crises
Communities are tackling the climate crisis in a variety of ways, from generating clean energy and reducing energy use, growing and selling food locally, protecting and rewilding green spaces, creating educational tools to tackle fast-fashion consumption, improving access to green transport, and engaging local people in conversations about how to tackle the climate crisis.
Will Walker, Climate Action Manager at Power to Change said: “Community businesses are addressing the biggest issues facing people today, including the current economic challenges and the climate crisis. Those least able to cope are hardest hit with low income and marginalised communities disproportionately impacted. Power to Change believe that these issues must be addressed together. Only by doing so can we help to build resilient communities and harness the huge opportunities for community businesses in a fair transition to a green economy.”
Support for community businesses
Community businesses can now access a multitude of useful resources and webinars to deepen their knowledge of energy efficiency, sustainability and community action via the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE). The Resilient Communities Fund, funded by Power to Change, offers tools to perform an energy survey, practical advice on improving energy efficiency, fuel poverty awareness and guidance for low and no cost improvements that can be made to community buildings.
In 2022, Power to Change delivered over £1.3 million of flexible grant funding to 137 community businesses to help them to navigate immediate economic pressures alongside investing in green solutions, so that they can come out stronger, and better prepared, for the climate transition.
John Pounds Community Trust said: “Our grant from Power to Change will be used to address our increased excess energy bills, allowing us to operate an open and warm building for local residents from low-income households. As we become a ‘warm hub’, we will provide essential services for our community including online access to signposting services, alongside free hot drinks and charging points for mobile phones.”
Grantees of the fund can book tailored support sessions from CSE’s broad range of experts for advice about retrofit, energy-efficiency measures, fuel poverty, community action, engagement and building long-term resilience in the energy market.
Susie Finlayson, Head of Design and Delivery at Power to Change said: “Power to Change is committed to strengthening community businesses to remain resilient as they play a crucial role responding to the growing needs of their communities through the cost-of-living crisis. With 77% of community businesses reporting an increased demand for support related to the costs of food, and 79% for support related to increase in the costs of energy; we know that community businesses needed immediate support to weather the economic storm. Whilst some have received support with their energy bills, we know demand for their services will increase, so we’re calling for the Government to extend and increase energy bill support for community businesses.”
Megan Blyth, Project Manager the Centre for Sustainable Energy, said: “As energy prices have soared, the Centre for Sustainable Energy’s (CSE) communities team has seen a big increase in demand for energy advice from community groups and businesses operating out of old and cold buildings that leak energy. CSE are happy to be able to provide our expertise to support community businesses as part of this programme. We hope our guidance helps these businesses to build long-term energy resilience by reducing their bills and carbon emissions and making their buildings more comfortable for staff and building users.”
Lisa Raftery, Head of Grants at Social Investment Business (SIB) said: “In the current cost of living crisis, we recognise the pressure that many social economy organisations are under to continue to provide their services, and in many cases expand on them to meet increased need. We welcome Power to Change’s commitment to being responsive to community businesses as they grapple with price rises. As Power to Change’s grants partner, we have worked to support the first round of the Resilient Communities Fund and provide organisations with much needed additional funding at pace, and we look forward to working with them as they design a second round of support.”