A partnership between Lifeskills and Wales & West Utilities will help deliver vital, and potentially life-saving, gas safety advice to people with learning difficulties across the Bristol area.

Lifeskills, a specially designed facility that uses life like scenarios to train people in how to deal with difficult or dangerous situations, has received £7,000 from the gas emergency and pipeline service which will now allow further training on gas and carbon monoxide (CO) safety for people with learning disabilities and those who support them.

The funding will specifically allow Lifeskills to develop tailored gas and CO resources for people with learning difficulties, whilst providing them with CO safety alarms. It will also allow them to provide information on additional CO and gas safety devices, including locking cooker valves and alarms, to over 600 families. Training will also be delivered to 150 professionals, including support workers and personal assistants, so that they can deliver CO specific messages, whilst using the centre with their clients.

Gas emergency and pipeline service, Wales & West Utilities, has provided the funding as part of its Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA).

Gemma Graville, Centre Manager, at Lifeskills, said:

Every year there are deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and people with learning difficulties can find it particularly hard to understand and identify issues, leaving them with an increased risk of death or serious injury, especially if they are living independently.

This funding will allow us to offer these groups, their families and their support workers, additional resources and information that is tailored to their needs so that we can educate and reduce any associated risks.

Carbon monoxide (CO), known as the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it, kills 50 people a year in England and Wales and hospitalises many more. In the UK, there are more than 4,000 visits to Accident & Emergency for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning – which can often lead to lasting neurological damage. Even low levels of exposure over an extended period can cause serious health issues, including brain injuries.

Gemma continued:

Our aim is to help people to live as independently as possible. By incorporating these additional gas and carbon monoxide safety lessons and messages into our activities, we will be able to specifically engage and help those with learning difficulties or their families.

Lifeskills is a realistic, interactive safety education centre, built as a realistic village complete with a road, shops and houses. The scenarios at the centre can be used to practice anything, from everyday situations, such as crossing the road and shopping, to dealing with emergency situations, such as a house fire or first aid incident.

Tom Robinson, Social Obligations Specialist at Wales & West Utilities, said:

We’re delighted that this funding will allow Lifeskills to support the most vulnerable by providing vital gas and CO safety advice allowing people to stay safe – and independent.

We are committed to doing everything we can to support those most in need in our communities. Working with trusted partners like Lifeskills means we can help more people stay safe in their own homes.

Between April 2021 to March 2026, Wales & West Utilities has £7m to spend on projects which support consumers in vulnerable situations and raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and keep people safe from the ‘silent killer’.

Funding is made from the Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA), and 75% of the money will be spent on projects relevant to Wales and south west England only, while 25% will be spent on collaborative projects with the other gas networks across the whole of the UK.

If you have a project that you think Wales & West Utilities could support, either individually or collaboratively with other gas networks, then contact Wales & West Utilities at VCMA@wwutilities.co.uk.

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If you smell gas, or suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, call us on 0800 111 999 straight away, and our engineers will be there to help any time of day or night. Before visiting, we'll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We'll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.