Report by Heike O’Sullivan
There I was, across enemy lines in the Land of the Blood & Bandage, keeping a low profile, when I got word of the Bantry based equivalent of our South Kerry Development Partnership (SKDP), the aptly named West Cork Development Partnership (WCDP), inviting applications from South Kerry for free stuff. A Cork organisation freely offering benefits to the Kingdom? Stuff that would make green and gold homes warmer and cosier? Surely, it had to be a Rebel trick. Or is there really a treat in store for us here, on the other side of the Tunnels?
I had to find out and walked around the corner to the WCDP office. Warmer Homes Scheme co-ordinator Finbarr O’Sullivan kindly gave me twenty minutes of his time to explain all about the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme (BEWHS). This scheme is not to be confused with the Better Energy Homes Scheme although you would be forgiven for doing so, seeing as our Government couldn’t come up with more distinct names for the two schemes. The Better Energy Homes Scheme is open to anyone and provides grants towards the cost of house insulation, solar panels and the like. The BEWHS, however, is means tested and covers the entire cost of certain home energy saving measures for qualifying buildings.
“The BEWHS aims to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of homes occupied by low-income households,” explained Finbarr. “Services under the current scheme include cavity wall and attic insulation, draught proofing, lagging jackets and low energy light. Any or all of these measures are carried out at no cost whatsoever to the qualifying home owner.”
Finbarr went on to say, “To be eligible for the scheme, you must own and live in your own home which must have been built and occupied before 2006. You must not have received works previously under the BEWHS, and you must be in receipt of one of the following: Fuel Allowance as part of the National Fuel Scheme (for instance as part of the State Pension or Farm Assist); Job Seekers Allowance for over six months and have a child under seven years of age; Family Income Supplement; One-Parent Family Payment; or Domiciliary Care Allowance.”
I asked how come the WCDP also looks after South Kerry homes and Finbarr told me that they have been administering the scheme since 2008, covering most parts of county Cork as well as South Kerry. “Local Development Companies such as ourselves or SKDP deliver a varied range of programmes. Each company selects those programmes which they think most suit their particular areas. In our case, WCDP chose the BEWHS amongst others and there is increased funding available this year due to Ireland being fined by the EU over greenhouse gas emissions. Many people still don’t know that this scheme is available and we are currently trying to raise awareness. There is a lot of money available right now for the BEWHS and surprisingly, one of our greatest challenges is to actually get potentially eligible home owners to approach us and engage with us. In fact, even property owners and landlords who don’t qualify for the BEWHS could benefit from a grant of up to €923 towards attic and cavity wall insulation for houses or apartments. Here, the only criteria are that the property was built and occupied before 2006.”
Local Development Companies such as the WCDP were set up to bring money into communities and to make application processes as easy and user-friendly as possible. They are known to be genuinely interested in helping the communities under their care. I have certainly found Finbarr of WCDP nothing but welcoming and enthusiastic about the BEWHS through which over 3,000 homes in West Cork have already benefitted since the scheme began. So, if you live anywhere in South Kerry and think you might qualify for the scheme, if you have a cavity wall house, perhaps built in the 1970s or 80s that could do with being insulated, get in touch with Finbarr who would be delighted to hear from you. Even if you live in a stone-built cottage or farmhouse, as I do, Finbarr said to get an application in to him. Although you would not be accepted into the current scheme which doesn’t cover external wall insulation or internal dry-lining, Finbarr is pretty sure that the scheme will be expanded to cover these forms of insulation in a couple of years time. By getting your name on his data base, you would already have one proverbial foot in the door when the time comes to offer work to stone buildings, too. No harm in that at all, and I promise, it’s not a Rebel trick.
For more information, contact Finbarr O’Sullivan of West Cork Development Partnership on 027 52266 or 087 0657334, call into his office just off Barrack Street, Bantry, or email firstname.lastname@example.org .