According to National Energy Action (NEA) around four million UK households are in fuel poverty, unable to afford to live in a warm home. Here at Riverside we can provide support for our customers who maybe struggling to pay their electricity, gas or other utility bills. Our Affordable Warmth Advisors are available across the country, here’s how Stuart Wilkinson from Carlisle has been helping customers in the Cumbria area.
My day starts by making sure I have the relevant information for the appointments I have for the day ahead, and they are mostly referred to me by our housing officers. There will also be some customers that need extra support such as paying their rent or help with getting a job, so I liaise with the relevant adviser to ensure the customer engages with services needed and advice to help them get back on track.
My first visit of the day is to help a 35-year-old single parent with two children. Miss M has incurred debt of £1,100 for both gas and electric. Her supplier has contacted her to say they are looking to fit a prepayment meter. Since moving in 20 months ago, she hasn’t registered with her water supplier.
We sit down and discuss what we need to do. I assist Miss M with her call to the provider to discuss her account, provide up-to-date readings so an accurate bill can be produced, and arrange for her to go through her income and expenditure with Step Change, a charity that help people in debt, so the energy provider can see her financial position accurately. We’re able to put her account on hold for 30 days to allow Miss M to set up support. I use the same financial information to help her complete an application to the provider’s Energy Fund for assistance with the fuel debt.
I help Miss M contact the water supplier to set up a water account. They agreed to start the account from beginning of this financial year rather than backdating it to when Miss M moved into the property – this means that she is not starting with a big, outstanding balance, and a payment plan is agreed.
I review how Miss M is using her central heating and regulating temperature to ensure that this is the most economical for her needs – such as using the timer, thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves (TRV’s). We also discuss energy saving hints and tips tailored to Miss M’s circumstances.
A follow up appointment is arranged along with next actions required so that we keep energy provider’s extra support team informed.
Then it’s back to the office to catch up on paperwork. I’ve received a number of responses from trust/energy funds that I’ve helped customers to apply for support to clear their debt. So I call the customers to advise them of the outcome.
So far this year we’ve been able to secure £12,910 from different trust funds to help pay our customers debt and also help buy washing machines and a fridge freezer!
I then liaise with the Income Collection officers about the customers I’m working with and what I am doing with them so they are kept up-to-date.
My next stop is with a new customer that has been referred by a housing officer. They are vulnerable and require assistance to register and set up with energy suppliers. A follow up appointment is booked to go through how to use of the central heating system and provide energy advice.
Another customer I visit has a standing charge debt built up on their gas prepayment meter which is preventing a gas safety test. I help them to contact the supplier to arrange for the debt to be moved to the “back of the meter”, and arrange for them to make regular low, weekly payments. We discuss the importance of crediting his gas regularly. I help him arrange a gas test appointment. I also spend some time reviewing how they heat the property – showing how gas will be less expensive overall in comparison.
My next visit is to complete a full affordable warmth review – this looks at how they can reduce their energy use and control condensation/damp in their home.
Then it’s back to the office to do some administration duties and prepare for the next day.
During March 2017 and April 2018 Riverside has helped 642 customers save £256,294 on their bills, which we’ve worked to clear utility debt through trust funds and advice on heating and energy saving.
If you’re a Riverside customer struggling to pay your gas, electricity or any other utility bill then get in touch with us and one of our Affordable Warmth Advisors may be able to help you; call 0345 111 0000 or email [email protected]