Community Story: Plasma of Hope

The ‘Winter is Coming: Beating Fuel Poverty Together’ project, spearheaded by Plasma of Hope, was a strategic initiative running from November 2023 to March 2024, designed to combat fuel poverty among vulnerable populations in the West  Midlands of England, with a focus on individuals living with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)  and related conditions. This end-of-project report summarises the project’s objectives, strategies, outcomes and the vital support received from National Grid and Localgiving.

It also outlines the increased demands and challenges faced by our community due to the cost-of-living crisis, the innovative approaches adopted to tackle these challenges and the significant impact of our interventions.

Key accomplishments include the successful execution of the Warm Hub and Food Pantry event, targeted education and outreach initiatives and comprehensive support services that have markedly improved the quality of life for our beneficiaries.

Looking forward, the report identifies ongoing needs for financial support, technology and partnerships to sustain and expand our efforts in addressing fuel poverty and supporting our community's well-being.


The ‘Winter is Coming’ project was initiated against the backdrop of the escalating cost-of-living crisis, which has disproportionately impacted the health and well-being of vulnerable populations, including those with SCD. 

Fuel poverty, a critical issue during the winter months, exacerbates health risks for individuals with chronic conditions, making it a pressing concern for our community. The project aimed to provide immediate relief and long-term solutions to fuel poverty, leveraging support from National Grid and Localgiving to implement a multifaceted approach that included awareness campaigns, community outreach and direct support through Warm Hub events and targeted education.

This report details the project's lifecycle, from conception through implementation to its conclusion in March 2024, highlighting the achievements and outlining future directions for Plasma of Hope’s ongoing mission.

An introduction to the work of Plasma of Hope and the communities they serve

Plasma of Hope is a UK registered charity, supporting individuals that are living with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), or other related illnesses. We understand the struggles individuals face who are living with sickle cell. We understand the frustration of not being able to do everyday chores, or enjoy certain life experiences, and our mission is to alleviate some of those struggles. 

Four smiling women holding Plasma of Hope tote bags with winter warmth kits

SCD is now one of the most common serious genetic conditions in England. Life for those living with the condition is very challenging. Everyday tasks are either very difficult or impossible to do. Simple things like leaving the house, collecting medication and shopping are just some everyday living tasks that are challenging and, in some cases, impossible. Many individuals struggle with transportation to access shops and appointments. Even simple tasks at home including ironing, cleaning and laundry become huge challenges.  

Plasma of Hope’s broader mission encompasses raising awareness of SCD and other genetic blood disorders like Thalassemia through campaigns and educational initiatives, aiming to foster understanding and adaptation within the community. Our Blood Donor Registration Campaign, in collaboration with NHS Blood and Transplant, seeks to increase the number of blood donors from African and Caribbean ethnic groups, vital for the high demand for certain blood types in the SCD community. The Wellbeing Exercise project encourages mild to moderate physical activity amongst individuals with SCD, conducted via zoom under a personal coach's guidance to improve blood circulation and overall well-being.  

Furthermore, our Befriending Services pairs individuals with SCD with compassionate volunteers for emotional support and companionship, through regular phone calls or home visits adhering to health guidelines.  

The charity operates in Walsall and surrounding boroughs like Dudley, Wolverhampton and Sandwell in the West Midlands of England, encompassing a holistic approach to assist individuals with SCD in various life aspects. Through these services and campaigns, Plasma of Hope fosters a supportive environment for individuals with SCD, their caregivers and the wider community, promoting better understanding and quality of life for those affected by this genetic disorder.

Questions and answers

How has your work and the demands you face changed in recent years?

In recent years, our organisation supporting people with sickle cell and thalassaemia has experienced significant changes and increased demands due to various factors, primarily the rising cost of living crisis. These changes have impacted both our clients and our staff, reshaping the nature of our work and the challenges we face. 

  • Increased Demand for Services: The escalating cost of living has led to a surge in individuals seeking assistance from our organisation. More people are accessing our services, particularly those related to basic needs such as food parcels and energy support. This heightened demand reflects the financial strain our clients are experiencing, which directly affects their ability to manage their health conditions effectively.
  • Strain on Mental Well-being and Health: The financial pressures resulting from the cost-of-living crisis are exacerbating mental health issues among our clientele. The need for essential support services like food parcels and energy assistance not only highlights the financial struggles they face but also underscores the detrimental impact on their mental well-being and overall health. This strain on mental health further complicates the management of chronic illnesses like sickle cell disease and thalassaemia.
  • Increased Workload for Staff: With the influx of individuals seeking support, our staff members are facing heightened workloads and increased responsibilities. They must work harder to meet the escalating demand for our services, which can be physically and emotionally taxing. The need to provide adequate assistance while maintaining quality care is challenging, especially amidst limited resources.
  • Reduced Volunteer Numbers: The cost-of-living crisis has also affected our volunteer base, as individuals may struggle to afford transportation costs associated with volunteering. This reduction in volunteer numbers further strains our organisation's capacity to meet the growing demands for support services.
  • Signposting to External Services: As the demand for our services continues to rise, we increasingly find ourselves needing to refer clients to external services that we do not provide. These referrals are necessary to ensure individuals receive comprehensive support for their diverse needs. However, it underscores the limitations of our organisation in addressing all aspects of our clients' challenges. 
  • Winter Challenges Amplified: While the winter months already pose challenges for individuals living with chronic illnesses, the cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated these difficulties. The financial strain makes it even more challenging for our clients to afford essential utilities, medication, and other necessities during the colder months, further compromising their health and well-being.

The cost-of-living crisis has fundamentally altered the landscape of our organisation’s work, leading to increased demand for services, strain on mental wellbeing, heightened workload for staff, reduced volunteer numbers, increased reliance on external referrals, and exacerbated challenges during the winter months. 

Adapting to these changes requires innovative solutions and collaboration with other stakeholders to ensure we continue to effectively support individuals affected by sickle cell disease and thalassaemia in the face of evolving socio-economic  challenges.

You’ve just received funding from the Community Matters Fund for a project on tackling fuel poverty – where did this idea come from and why is it so important?

The idea of addressing fuel poverty through a comprehensive approach originates from a deep understanding of the pressing challenges faced by individuals and communities grappling with rising energy costs. This initiative has emerged from recognising the urgent need to support vulnerable populations, particularly those with conditions like sickle cell disease and thalassaemia, who are disproportionately affected by fuel poverty.  

At its core, this project stems from a commitment to ensuring the well-being and dignity of the communities we serve. Fuel poverty poses a direct threat to the health and safety of vulnerable individuals during harsh weather conditions. Providing immediate relief is essential for preventing hardship and suffering.

How important is the support you’ve received from National Grid and Localgiving?

The support from National Grid and Localgiving was pivotal in our systematic approach to combat fuel poverty through a multi-tiered strategy:  

  • Awareness Building: With this support, we leveraged social media, community bulletin boards, and local media platforms to disseminate vital information about available fuel assistance programs, ensuring that vulnerable populations were aware of the support available to them.  
  • Community Outreach: National Grid and Localgiving's assistance allowed us to establish partnerships with local agencies and organisations such as Warmer Homes West Midlands and Citizens Outreach Coalition, facilitating outreach programs that directly engaged with communities affected by fuel poverty, ensuring that our support reached those who needed it most.
  • Warm Hub Event: On the 9th of March 2024, our Warm Hub and Food Pantry event saw the distribution of warm packs to attendees, enhancing their comfort during the cold months. Each pack, a thoughtful assembly of a blanket, a water bottle, winter foil roll, a travel mug and hot chocolate packets, was designed to offer warmth and solace. The event, distinguished. by the provision of food parcels, welcomed over 140 members from the local community. Your generous funding enabled us to distribute more than 50 warm packs on a first-come, first-served basis, marking a significant achievement in our efforts to support those in need during winter.  
  • Targeted Education: Through this support, we conducted workshops and one to-one sessions tailored to vulnerable populations, educating them on practical energy-saving measures that could help alleviate the burden of high energy costs. This was delivered in partnership with Citizens Outreach Coalition’s certified energy efficiency advisers.   
  • Support Scheme Navigation: With this assistance, we assisted eligible families in navigating complex support schemes, such as winter fuel discounts and Social Fund schemes, ensuring that they could access the financial assistance they were entitled to.  
  • Financial Counselling: This support allowed us to provide customised financial counselling sessions, helping families to budget their energy costs effectively and manage their finances more efficiently.  
  • Adaptive Programming: With this funding, we conducted periodic reviews of our programs based on metrics and user feedback, allowing us to adapt and evolve our approach to better meet the changing needs of our community.  

This support from National Grid and Localgiving played a crucial role in our comprehensive efforts to combat fuel poverty by raising awareness, providing education and support, and continually refining our approach based on data and feedback. Through their assistance, we effectively empowered vulnerable populations to navigate and overcome the challenges of high energy costs, ultimately improving their quality of life and well-being.

What would most help you in 2024?

What would most help us continue our mission in combating fuel poverty and supporting vulnerable populations is ongoing financial support and resources.  Specifically, continued funding from government grants, corporate sponsors, and philanthropic organisations would enable us to sustain and expand our programmes and services.

Additionally, access to data analytics tools and technology would enhance our ability to track program efficiency and tailor our interventions to meet the evolving needs of the community effectively.

Also, partnerships with local businesses and community organisations can provide additional resources and support networks, amplifying the impact of our initiatives. Ultimately, a collaborative effort involving financial support, technological resources and community partnerships would be most beneficial in helping us address the ongoing challenges of fuel poverty and support those in need.

Are there any particular projects / campaigns / action points that you’d like to highlight?

In terms of action points, we believe we can strengthen efforts to combat fuel poverty, support vulnerable populations and create lasting positive change in communities through these schemes:

Expansion of Energy Assistance Programs

Securing funding for the expansion of energy assistance programs, including initiatives such as:

  • providing more targeted education and outreach efforts in underserved communities
  • offering additional financial counselling sessions to help families manage their energy costs effectively
  • increasing the availability of home energy assessments and recommendations for energy-efficient improvements.  

Technology and Data Analytics Integration

Investing in technology and data analytics tools to enhance program efficiency and effectiveness, such as:  

  • implementing a centralised database for tracking program outcomes and monitoring client progress
  • utilising data analytics to identify trends, assess program impact and inform strategic decision-making
  • integrating digital platforms for streamlined communication, feedback collection and program evaluation.

Policy Advocacy and Partnership Building

Engaging in policy advocacy efforts and building strategic partnerships to address systemic issues contributing to fuel poverty, such as:  

  • advocating for policies that increase access to affordable energy, expand eligibility for support programs and promote energy equity
  • collaborating with government agencies, advocacy groups and industry stakeholders to develop comprehensive solutions and address root causes of fuel poverty
  • participating in coalitions and task forces focused on advancing energy justice and social welfare initiatives at the local, regional, and national levels.


The ‘Winter is Coming: Beating Fuel Poverty Together’ project has successfully addressed critical aspects of fuel poverty among vulnerable populations, particularly those affected by Sickle Cell Disease and related conditions. 

Through comprehensive support mechanisms, community engagement and strategic partnerships, Plasma of Hope has demonstrated the potential for significant impact in mitigating the challenges posed by fuel poverty. The project's achievements – from the provision of warm packs and educational workshops to financial counselling – reflect a deep commitment to improving the quality of life for those in need. As we reflect on the progress made, it's clear that continued efforts, resources and collaboration are essential for building on this foundation. The fight against fuel poverty, intertwined with health and social wellbeing, requires persistent dedication and innovation.

Plasma of Hope extends heartfelt gratitude to the Community Matters Fund, National Grid, Localgiving and all our partners and sponsors for their invaluable support, without which the ‘Winter is Coming: Beating Fuel Poverty Together’ project would not have been possible. Thank you for standing with us in our mission to uplift and support vulnerable communities.

Find out more about Plasma of Hope