Experience as Warm Homes Officer by Gareth Greatrex

The Brief    

This fantastic opportunity working on a fuel poverty project for Leicestershire County Council aims to provide graduates with the experience and knowledge necessary to kick-start their career in sustainability and/or the public sector. Without reserve or bias I must say that it does exactly what it says on the tin!

Working on this project has given me the opportunity to work across a range of local government organisations, and liaise with multiple stakeholders ranging from some of the region’s most vulnerable people, to charities, contractors, district and county councils. Simultaneously I have built a solid foundation of sustainability and energy knowledge that will stand me in good stead over my career.

The thing that surprised me the most however, was how rewarding the project has been. I’ve been able to make a real difference to people’s lives which was hardly my core objective when taking on the role, but is something that has influenced me as a person and helped to sharpen my career aspirations.

The Partnership  

Change Agents UK's main role in this enterprise is providing the opportunity; they also take care of all the other stuff like training, wages, expenses, and contracts etc. so you can focus on learning and development. The county and district councils effectively provide all the operational support you need, but one of the most enriching parts of this experience has been the scope I’ve had to self-manage and to actively shape the direction of the project.  

Key Responsibilities

There are many vulnerable people out there that face the daily challenge of either buying food or having the heating on. In an advnaced civilised society this situation is intollerable, and that is the issue this project addresses. As a ‘Warm Homes Officer’ or WHO as we are affectionately known, I visit people’s homes, survey their heating, insulation, and energy bills, and critically evaluate and compare these with their needs and lifestyle. The next part can be something simple like setting up their heating programme, or changing their tariff, or something more challenging like scouring the nation for funding for a new boiler! There’s also a lot of follow up work liaising with contractors, trusts and charities etc. to follow the case right through to a successful outcome.

The other side of the coin is the administrative experience this provides, and exposure to high level work in local government. I regularly attended project progress meetings, wrote a variety of reports from end of project data packages, to simply stated reports that go out to residents, and also the more general office experience that many graduates need to get their foot on the career ladder.

Opportunity Benefits

The benefits are straight forward and easy to convey: I have learnt a lot, met a lot of interesting people, and worked along side experienced and talented public servants. Thanks to this experience and a fantastic two page written reference form the county council, I will be moving on to the NGDP local governement graduate scheme working for the Local Government Association in Westminster. Who could ask for more!

The Results

Other than a great experience, and a unique insight into the workings of local government (and of course a great job to move onto!), myself and my colleague combined have visited 203 properties, spent £50,000 on heating and energy efficiency measures, and helped countless residents secure other sources of funding for energy efficiency measures. In doing this it’s no boast to say that we have helped more than a few people out of some sticky situations and sometimes critical situations. As an additional bonus, we’ve also managed to cut some carbon of the UK’s account, a welcome and important factor for all you budding environmentalists out there!

Published August 2015. 

After completing my Masters I desired to work within the energy field, and my position with Change Agents helped give me the first step on this ladder, and gain some much needed real work experience.
Dominic Pybus, Warm Homes Officer, Leicestershire County Council.