Last year we heard heart-breaking stories from households struggling to pay their energy and food bills. The people we spoke to tended to be isolated and unaware of the support available to them. As we have explored further it has become ever clearer why this is the case.

The range of agencies interested in helping people who are finding it difficult to pay energy bills is baffling. They might be health bodies worried about premature winter deaths and seeking to reduce pressure on health services. They could be local authorities with strategies on housing, poverty and well-being. It could be a central government department such as DECC looking at fuel poverty and carbon emissions. It might be a local Social Housing Provider or a progressive charity. It can also be the energy company meeting its statutory obligations.

The list is bewildering even to professionals. How are people struggling to cope with daily pressures meant to find their way through this maze? This is the question we have been puzzling over. We have realised that a key piece in the jigsaw puzzle is the local MP.

MPs have amazing local convening power and connections. If the local MP invites you to a meeting most organisations will accept. We have successfully used this influence to bring together relevant organisations in areas where we have previously had no connections to share. The meetings have been a revelation. Time and time again people working in the same local area have met others for the first time seeking to achieve the same ambitions with the same people. We have constantly heard stories of people doing amazing jobs but often in isolation from others committed to the same objectives.

Thanks to the MPs we have been able to start creating local constituency maps, making organisations aware of how they can better co-ordinate their resources, as part of a project called Fuelling Connections. We have been able to find one agency who can consolidate all the information and make it available in a format that is understandable to the people they are trying to help. We are using this information in the creation of our local Facebook groups better connecting local people who need help with agencies who have the resources required.

We still don’t know whether our approach – and in particular the use of Facebook – will be successful. What we can already say with confidence is that MPs have a significant role to play in creating better co-ordination of local services. This approach can be cost-effectively extended to the whole country and is one of the things we will be discussing further over the coming months.

The more we do, the more we learn. Follow our campaigns on Twitter and Instagram or add to the conversation on LinkedIn.

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