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Charity cafe and community nursery save cash thanks to utilities switching scheme

Nikki Dravers, a co-founder of REfUSE, with David Judge from SwitchAid

A charity cafe and a community nursery are the latest organsations to benefit from a new service helping good causes save money on their utility bills.

The REfUSE Café in Chester-Le-Street – which turns waste food into healthy meals – has become the latest good cause to benefit from North East not-for-profit scheme SwitchAid

SwitchAid unlocks cash for good causes by switching within energy and telecoms suppliers and can be taken up by homes, businesses and good causes themselves.

Other comparison sites and brokers are paid commission by the suppliers but in the case of SwitchAid this commission is passed on to the nominated good cause in the form of savings and grants.

SwitchAid co-founding director David Judge, said: “SwitchAid is specifically designed to support the local community, improve the sustainability of third sector organisations and offer an ethical option in the energy and telecoms sectors notorious for sharp business practices.”

Dom Ryan and David Judge are friends who play rugby together and they teamed up with Michael Gibbons and Carla Redpath, originally business contacts of Dom. All four have a shared passion for supporting local communities through the third sector and complementary expertise within the charity, energy and telecoms sectors.

REfUSE Café is part of the UK wide The Real Junk Food Project, a network of organisations challenging surplus levels of food waste, operating on a ‘Pay As You Feel Basis’ and is entirely run by volunteers.

SwitchAid has already unlocked many thousands of pounds for the third sector with Ferryhill Sport and Education Centre saving £14,473 plus a grant totalling £5,000 comprised of unlocked commission that would normally have stayed in the pocket of the broker; and now REfUSE is looking to do the same.

Nikki Dravers, a co-founder of REfUSE, said: “SwitchAid has been great, they contacted us last year at a time when we were in the middle of stressful building work trying to get the café ready to open and we were approached by various energy consultants who I felt were trying to hoodwink and exploit us.

“What SwitchAid has done is advise not sell, which has taken away all the worry about our energy supplier and we’ve recently received our first cash payment of over a £100 with the expectation that this is the first of many regular payments. This will potentially unlock hundreds of pounds on a regular basis and by supporting us in this way SwitchAid is contributing toward making our not-for-profit business model more sustainable.”

SwitchAid can either work directly with the third sector as in the case of REfUSE or with individuals and businesses that can nominate a preferred good cause to benefit.

David Judge said: “What the four SwitchAid founders realised is that we could address some of the inequity, bad practice and confusion in the energy and telecoms market at the same time as unlocking badly needed cash for local communities. The third sector is always looking for ways to generate money and this is a wonderful way of doing so beyond the usual fundraising initiatives.

“It’s been a real success and we’ve recently expanded into the telecoms contracts market combining all our services under one banner.”

Andrew Hubbard, chair of the Ferryhill Community Partnership, the charity behind the sport and education centre, said: “We’ve been able to give the people what they asked for by setting up a new soccer school which is now being used by about 50 school children a week.”

Childs Play Private Nursery has received £1330 in grants and £700 in saved energy costs from cost effective energy suppliers and an additional £1,440 in saved mobile phone costs and set up.

Laura Davies managing director of Childs Play Private Nursery said: “We’ve used the additional funds given to us from SwitchAid to freshen up our new nurseries.

“Some paint throughout will make a world of difference and give the families a feeling of positivity as they transitioned from the old owners to the new.

“Thanks again to SwitchAid, who were a huge help from the start which meant being able to concentrate on setting up and running my new nurseries.”

David of SwitchAid said: “Either we help the third sector directly as in the case of REfUSE and the Ferryhill Community Partnership or we provide the business community and the individual the opportunity to unlock cash through our expertise, which can then be channelled back into the local community through their nominated charity.

“By offering our commissions in the form of grants as well as identifying the best savings in the telecoms and energy market, we can unlock cash for charity that otherwise would’ve gone into the pockets of business people.”