Power company works with charity to point to fuel poverty support

Business / Sun 19th Jul 2020 at 08:26am

GROWING numbers of families struggling to pay their energy bills, are being helped by the UK’s biggest electricity distributor expanding its work with a national charity.

UK Power Networks, which distributes electricity across London, the South East and East of England to 8.3million homes and businesses, partners with National Energy Action (NEA) on the WASH (Warm and Safe Homes) scheme.

Already running for around a year, the telephone service which sees the power company refer households in need of advice and support to the charity, is seeing greater demand since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. NEA has seen call volumes increase substantially during lockdown, with calls volume at more than double their usual levels in some months.

The news comes after the Government announced earlier this month that homeowners in England will receive vouchers to make energy-saving improvements to their properties.

The Money Advice Trust and Citizens Advice have also cited the coronavirus impact on household finances, with claims for Universal Credit increasing hugely and the potential to worsen this winter if unemployment rises.

UK Power Networks trains its call centre and field staff to look out for vulnerable customers who could benefit from the WASH programme, which gives guidance on how to save money on utility bills by switching tariff and making properties more energy efficient.

Kerry Potter, consumer vulnerability manager at UK Power Networks, said: “In recent months we have been finding the need for the WASH service is greater than it has ever been. People’s circumstances have been changed by coronavirus, and a growing number of households are now needing help who wouldn’t have previously.

“Our staff reassure customers there is somewhere they can go for help to reduce the cost of their utilities. We part-fund the advice service because it offers personal help and independent advice to families who are facing hardship, and real financial difficulties in keeping hard-to-heat homes warm.”

Danni Barnes, director of operations at National Energy Action said: “The Warm and Safe Homes advice service offers telephone advice to people who might be struggling to afford the cost of their utility bills.

“It is free to get in touch and we offer a wide range of support including managing energy debt, income maximisation, help with switching suppliers and guidance on ways to save money by being more energy efficient. We are delighted to be working with UK Power Networks to help provide assistance to their customers and very grateful for their support to the service.”

UK Power Networks’ wider fuel poverty programme strives to reach all fuel poor homes in the communities it serves with tailored support issued to around 850,000 families. The company does not set energy bills, but the programme has already resulted in financial benefits of more than £48million for customers.

If you are worried about paying your utility bills and would like to talk to an independent expert, our partners NEA’s Warm and Safe Homes advice team are here to help.

You can call for free weekdays 9am to 5pm on 0800 304 7159. There is also a referral form which can be found at https://www.nea.org.uk/advice/wash-advice/ and an email address [email protected] to contact.

Residents who would benefit from extra support in the event of a power cut, can join the free Priority Services Register by contacting UK Power Networks at www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priority, 0800 169 9970 [email protected]

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