There are some things in life that are often considered to essential in modern society. Amongst these, energy is commonly considered to be vital.
However, looking after a household’s energy is not something that is easy for everybody. There are many vulnerable people in the UK who struggle to set up and maintain this essential service. Millions of Britons are in fuel poverty alone.
Being a vulnerable customer could mean a variety of things – from illness and disability, to being of advanced age, or perhaps experiencing financial difficulty. There are also cases where customers are vulnerable in more ways than one.
But what is the energy industry doing to support people who are vulnerable?
Some suppliers have more services than others to support the vulnerable, while some suppliers offer less support.
Our research has found that there are suppliers in the UK who offer the following services, which may be of use to those who require it:
- Braille Bills
- Audio Bills
- Large print bills
- Customer service agents who can communicate via video in British Sign Language
- Assisted meter readings
- Financial programmes
- The Warm Home Discount
- The ability to nominate someone you trust to handle your bills
- Magnifying strips to aid with reading bills
- And More
Your supplier may also be able to put you on the Priority Services Register (PSR) – which may offer additional support. You can speak to your supplier about being added to the PSR.
All of the above services may be useful, but there have been recent calls for the industry to do even more.
“…low-income households spend on average a much higher proportion of their income on energy (15.9%) than higher income households (6.6%), and a higher proportion than their spend on transport, telecoms or water.”
The latest figures show that one in four households in Scotland is classified as being in fuel poverty. In Wales, the Fuel Poverty Coalition Cymru has highlighted that 23% of households were in fuel poverty in 2016, and that living in a cold home is a bigger killer than alcohol-related deaths. In England, the proportion of households in fuel poverty under its own definition is lower, at 1 in 10 households, but this still equated to over 2.5 million households.”
-Energy UK, The Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances
Energy UK commissioned a recent vulnerability report that made several suggestions that may be put into practice in the future. These include:
- A voluntary “Vulnerability Code of Conduct”.
- Making sure that staff is well trained to identify and support vulnerable customers.
- Better use of data to identify and support the vulnerable, and to guide them toward the required support.
Support for vulnerable customers has grown, however it is important that those customers have what they need to be able to use energy in the ways they need to. If you don’t feel your supplier is properly supporting your situation, you may wish to move to a supplier who may suit you better. There are several suppliers who have taken steps to make their services accessible, and to support a variety of customers – and hopefully, services and support for the vulnerable will only continue to improve.