How to talk to your community about the campaign

Community support is key to the success of your campaign. This guide will help you feel confident going out into the community to talk to people about United for Warm Homes.

29 Sep 2022

We’re taking this campaign out into our communities to attract public support and build a powerful movement for change. 

Whether you’re chatting to people on a stall in your town centre, in a shopping centre, or on their doorstep, get familiar with this script and use it as a base to help guide the conversation. 

Script for community conversations

Hi, my name's [your name]. I’m part of a new campaign called [your area eg Newcastle] for Warm Homes. We’re campaigning to help lower energy bills and make sure everyone has a warm home. Can I ask, have energy prices and the cost-of-living crisis been worrying you? 

(Leave space for them to reply.) 

Average energy bills have skyrocketed since 2021, and at the same time other everyday costs like food and clothing have also gone up. 

Millions of us are worried that we won’t be able to keep our homes warm this winter. Did you know that locally... (Use the energy crisis hotspots map to find a couple of local stats.) 

The UK has some of the worst-insulated homes in Europe. So, we’re wasting a shocking amount of money as climate-wrecking heat escapes through our walls, roofs, floors and ceilings. 

And meanwhile, soaring gas prices mean that oil and gas companies are making record-breaking profits, while we’re left to pick up the huge costs to people and planet. That's not fair. 

If you agree this isn’t right, will you help us demand that the government takes action? We want to make sure that our MP and any local candidates standing for the next general election know this is a key issue for voters. And that they commit to taking action on warm homes. 

We want our MP to help us demand that the government provides more financial support to keep people warm this winter, rolls out an emergency insulation programme, and fixes our failed energy system to work for people and planet instead of profit.

Will you make a postcard that we can send to our MP and election candidates to demand they take action? 

It’s messages from across our community that'll build up the pressure on local politicians. By making postcards, we’re hoping to grab their attention through the creativity of the action (although artistic skills are very much not required) and by sharing personal messages.

If they agree to make a postcard:

  • Thank them and explain the postcard activity. They can decorate a postcard themselves or choose a pre-coloured version. They can then add their message about warm homes. The messages they write might be about the impact of the energy crisis, why they care about the issue and/ or what their demands are. Find out more about this action and order your template postcards.
  • Encourage them to also sign up to your mailing list and stay in the loop about the campaign as it progresses. 
  • Tell them about other ways they can get involved, eg what actions and activities you’ve got planned, and any upcoming meetings or events. 

If they don’t: 

  • Thank them for their time anyway. Offer them a leaflet to take away to read more about the campaign, or point them to unitedforwarmhomes.uk for more information. 

Sensitive topics

Important to note: People across the country are struggling to pay their bills. You may speak to people who open up to you about their difficult personal circumstances. In this situation, don't offer financial advice. Instead, signpost them to respected organisations who can help. You may find it useful to print our flyer listing these organisations, plus additional local services, so that you have them ready to give to people if needed. 

Conversation tips

You can’t predict exactly what people will say or how the conversation will go, so here are a few more general tips to help you navigate conversations. 

  • Be concise. People typically won’t have long to stay and chat. Give a quick overview of the campaign before asking them to make a postcard. If someone's interested in talking more about the details of the campaign, you can continue the conversation after they've agreed. 
  • Listen. Make sure you’re giving space for them to share their thoughts and respond to what they’re saying. Find out a little bit about the person you’re speaking to and build a friendly rapport.
A woman in a yellow jumper chats to a group stood in a circle outside
Group of volunteers at a meeting outside © SolStock via Getty Images
  • Make the topic accessible. People have different levels of knowledge and understanding of the topic, so try not to use jargon or over-complicate things. You’re not there to have a detailed policy debate, so stay focused on the big picture: that everyone deserves a warm home that doesn’t cost the Earth. 
  • It’s ok to walk away.  End a conversation if it doesn’t feel productive, for example if someone is resolutely opposed to the campaign. Politely thank the person for their time and move on to speak with another member of the public. Your time is best spent talking to people who either agree with the campaign aims or are easily persuadable.
  • Practice makes perfect. It can be daunting speaking to strangers. Why not have a practice session with the rest of your group, taking turns to be different members of the public. You’ll quickly work out your best opening line, and how to keep people engaged. 

FAQs

United for Warm Homes is calling for the UK government to fund councils to co-ordinate street-by-street energy-efficiency programmes.  

In practice, this means every home in a particular street is offered free loft and cavity wall insulation and help with draught-proofing if they need it, and every home is also offered an energy audit with advice on what else they could do to reduce energy use.

It takes 2 professionals less than 1 day to fit loft and cavity wall insulation on 1 home. A team can fit multiple homes in 1 day, and multiple teams could start in different streets. Once 1 street is done, the workers move to the next street and so on, until at least all neighbourhoods most at risk of fuel poverty are covered.   

A significant advantage of street-by-street programmes is that costs are a lot lower (eg less need for workers to travel between jobs, bulk purchasing etc) and household participation is higher. 

In England and Wales there are 5.7 million homes that'd benefit from loft insulation and 3.8 million homes that could be fitted with cavity wall insulation. This is equal to approximately 18% of homes, and is based on analysing the Energy Performance Certificates Database. 

Analysis of the numbers of homes needing this basic insulation in each local authority area can be downloaded on Friends of the Earth's Policy site. 

Similar data isn't available for Northern Ireland. The latest data on Northern Ireland is from the 2016 Housing Condition survey, which found that 98% of homes had loft insulation but only 54% had an adequate quantity. Only 65% of homes that could have cavity wall insulation had it. 

We don’t have a precise cost for a national programme of insulation, because there are a lot of variables and slightly different approaches will be needed in each of the UK’s 4 nations. However, we estimate the cost for England and Wales to be at least £6 billion a year over the next 10 years.

Right now, people on low incomes won’t have the cash to pay for the measures needed. We’re therefore calling for this programme to be paid for by the government and co-ordinated by councils. We’re also suggesting avoiding means testing for the programme as this’ll just add extra bureaucracy and slow things down, and may also discourage some low-income homes from participating.

Although this scheme may sound expensive, insulating homes will also save us money. Cold homes have serious physical and mental health consequences and lead to high costs for the NHS every year. A recent report by the Institute of Health Equity and Friends of the Earth found that cold homes are costing our society billions per year, through increased costs to the NHS, higher caring costs, bigger energy bills, lost productivity from ill health and larger carbon emissions. We estimate that £4.6 billion a year in avoided climate impacts would be saved by insulating our homes (using figures on the costs of carbon emissions from the US Environmental Protection Agency). An insulation programme would also have other benefits such as job creation and increased tax revenue, and free up household spending by reducing energy bills.  

Through reduced health costs, carbon impacts and the economic benefits it brings, a national insultation programme can easily pay for itself in the long term. However, some upfront money will still be needed to pay for it. Existing government commitments and schemes like the Great British Insulation scheme and the Energy Company Obligation scheme currently provide about £2 billion a year for domestic energy efficiency projects.  

This means another £4 billion a year is needed to reach the £6 billion a year we're calling for. This could be funded by the Energy Profits Levy (a windfall tax on oil and gas companies), which is expected to raise £26 billion between 2022 and 2028, or £4.3 billion a year. Although the levy is set to end in 2029, we're calling for it to be extended and for the loopholes that reduce the taxes fossil fuel companies have to pay if they invest in new oil and gas to be removed. The New Economics Foundation has calculated that these loopholes are worth £10.5 billion to the industry over 3 years (£3.5 billion a year). This would take the annual total raised by the levy to £7.8 billion, more than enough to pay for a national insulation scheme and ensure warm homes for all.  

It depends on the measures installed and the cost of energy. But even basic measures can save people significant money. Loft or cavity wall insulation, for example, will each save a household around 20% on its bills and pay for themselves in a few years.

In 2023 it cost £320 more per year to heat a home rated Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) D than a home rated EPC C, and £560 more for a home rated EPC E. Bringing all homes up to EPC C standard in England and Wales would have saved householders £5.3 billion in energy costs each year.

With energy costs currently so high, even expensive measures such as installing solar panels may pay themselves back within a handful of years. The Energy Saving Trust has useful content and price estimates for different measures, including estimated cost savings.

Most homes that’ll be lived in are already built, which is why United for Warm Homes is primarily concerned with improving existing homes. Standards for new homes will increase by 2025, but many people have been calling for this date to be brought forward, and for local councils to be able to require better homes. Some councils are already doing good work in this area, for example Reading and York

Renewable energy is the cheapest way to produce electricity, at the current price of gas as much as 9 times cheaper. We should be moving as fast as we can to cheaper and cleaner renewables, and away from expensive, polluting fossil fuels. This’ll help bring down electricity bills, but of course this only helps with heating costs if you have electric heating.

There are also some changes to the energy market that the government needs to make to ensure these cheaper prices feed through to consumers. The energy regulator Ofgem is currently looking at possible changes.

Until these changes are made, electric heating is still more expensive, except for heat pumps which are ultra efficient. Heat pumps will therefore need to become the norm, and this’ll bring down emissions too. Check out Friends of the Earth’s advice on eco heating

Renewables and eco heating are a big part of the answer to our failed energy system, but they’ll take time to scale up. In the meantime, it’s vital that everyone has a warm home and an energy bill they can afford. That’s why United for Warm Homes is also campaigning for financial support for those struggling, as well as insulation to make homes warmer and cheaper to heat.