Last year Cornish Firewood launched the Cornwall Wood Bank Scheme, a community enterprise created to help address the issues of fuel poverty in Cornwall.
Similar to a food bank the wood bank offers a lifeline to those who are unable to heat their homes and have to choose between heating and eating. Keeping yourself and your family warm is a basic requirement, however, one which many take for granted. We find even those families where one parent or householder works, the cost of living versus the average wage in this region means there is often a gap between income and expenditure. This was previously filled either by a Government benefit that has now changed or been removed. Causing debt, misery and ill health to many, especially those already unwell, the very young and the elderly.
The wood bank cannot nor does it attempt to solve all the social issues behind this fuel poverty, rather to ease people’s lives and help bridge the gap for what could be a temporary situation or circumstance. What is alarming however is increasingly this is not a temporary situation and the gap between income and expenditure continues to widen. Food and wood banks should be seen as a temporary short term solution. Providing some comfort at difficult times.
Until our economy improves and stabilises if it can do so, the distribution of wealth is one way to help those most in need. Food and wood banks work in this way. Those that can afford a little extra every order can donate to the wood bank one bag of logs. This builds as more lovely customers add to it and Cornish Firewood then double the amount donated and provide free delivery to those in need.
So how do we determine who has the greatest need?
This part is tricky and we work with community partners such as local charities, Cornwall Council, Shelter, local food banks and Age Concern to name a few where clients are referred to us. Otherwise anyone can apply to receive help from the wood bank. We do not simply help those in receipt of benefits as usually these families and households can afford what they need and often it’s those that work but not enough hours or those on zero hours contracts that most need help. We also have referrals from concerned parishioners or neighbours who know of someone living close to them that need our help.
Criteria are as follows:
- Must prove low income does not meet household budget outgoings – personal debts are not included in this.
- Must have facility to safely burn wood fuel – burner, Rayburn, boiler or open fire.
- Demonstrate cannot afford to use fossil fuel heating such as gas, electric or oil. Please state if wood fuel is only source of heating.
- Must be living in the postcode areas covered by the scheme East Cornwall to Lands Ends
- Proof of income and expenditure will be required.
The process is simple, we ask for evidence of financials but only the basics not a comprehensive breakdown and will never ask to see bank statements. Data supplied will be held on file to evidence we have supported the right households. You are protected by UK Data Protection laws. Decisions on applications received will take 48 hours and once we commit to support we do so for the duration of the winter season or until your situation improves.
We would like to thank our amazingly generous customers who last year enabled us to support 20 households keep warm and offered comfort to those who very much needed our help. This may seem like a small number but this was the first year of the scheme and a fairly wet mild winter, importantly we may have saved a life as so many elderly people lose their lives due to being cold.
We feel proud to have launched this scheme and encourage donations from customers, clients, colleagues other businesses and firewood suppliers. The need is still there and already this season we have received applications from previous users and new. We also have our company mascot: Captain Firewood who will be coming to the rescue this winter to those households struggling to heat their homes. Look out for him he could visit your village next.
The Cornwall Wood Bank Scheme – spreading warmth throughout Cornwall.