One area that networks may be less known for is the support work given to customers who find power cuts more difficult to cope with and those who are fuel poor. Western Power Distribution’s (WPD) Karen McCalman explains how the company offers greater support to those most vulnerable in the community. Check out the full series of ENA's infographics here.
Western Power Distribution’s longstanding approach to consumer vulnerability has focussed on helping customers cope during a power cut. Since 2014 the company has made a commitment to contact all Priority Service Registered customers once every two years to update their information, as we know that accurate information is essential for WPD to provide proactive, timely, bespoke contact during emergencies.
The Priority Service Register (PSR) is a service provided to customers who may find power cuts particular worrying, whether it be because they are elderly, have young children or rely on electricity for medical equipment. Once registered, customers are provided with additional support in a power cut, including a direct dial number to call in a power cut, calls from us to keep you updated in a power cut, and extra help if needed.
With the help of stakeholders, we have also extended our range of services to recognise and address the broad and multidimensional nature of vulnerability. This includes taking steps to address fuel poverty.
WPD recognises that some customers struggle to afford electricity and to effectively heat their properties. Whilst WPD does not directly cause fuel poverty, we are uniquely placed (by handling over 1 million contacts with customers each year) to provide information to customers on potential causes and solutions to this issue.
We work with a wide range of expert partners to deliver practical support to customers, ranging from tariff switching advice to energy efficiency schemes.
WPD take two approaches to supporting fuel poor customers to access information on energy affordability:
1.‘Power up’ fuel poverty schemes: We refer individuals to partner organisations where our day-to-day contact with customers (including proactive calls to customers on our Priority Services Register to update their details) identifies a specific need in relation to fuel poverty.
2.‘Affordable Warmth’ collaborative outreach schemes: We support existing area-based fuel poverty programmes to work collectively to identify and support hard-to-reach customers not known to WPD and refer any eligible for the PSR to WPD – our “Affordable Warmth” projects
The support our partners can provide includes:
- Income maximisation e.g. debt management
- Energy tariff advice e.g. switching
- Energy efficiency measures e.g. home insulation schemes
- Heating solutions e.g. boiler replacement schemes
- Behavioural changes e.g. effectively using your heating system
- Health and wellbeing e.g. mobility aids, fire safety checks, etc.
Both our flagship schemes started as pilot projects but we have embedded and expanded the schemes so that since 2016 every PSR customer we contact is now offered the opportunity of fuel poverty support.
We operate a ‘hub’ model, working with a lead agency who is responsible for contacting the customer, assessing their needs and delivering support. Each lead agency then manages network of local agencies to provide support in areas not covered by their own service provision.
2016 launched three new Affordable Warmth Partnership schemes in East Midlands, the South West and South Wales so that we now have a scheme in each of our licence areas. Each scheme is targeted with supporting 1250 customers with fuel poverty interventions, using WPD’s social indicator mapping to target the areas of greatest need. Key outputs from all of our fuel poverty projects led to 11,766 fuel poor customers being supported and saving a total of £3 million.
WPD has commissioned the Centre for Sustainable Energy to complete scientific research to enable the company, local authorities and community groups to better identify and support customers who might be vulnerable to a power cut or have difficulty affording energy.
Our research compiled various data sets and mapped common issues by local authority region. This helps gain an understanding of the nature, scale and distribution of different types of household vulnerability.
This work better pinpoints and highlights the difficulties customers face so that we can work smarter to support customers and meet our social obligations. The maps have been published on WPD’s website to share knowledge with agencies so they can better target their support for customers, for example by publicising the PSR in areas with the greatest need.
Ultimately, the important thing is that our customers are supported in the best way possible by the best people and sharing our knowledge provides a valuable societal contribution.
For more about how WPD is supporting vulnerable customers and the PSR visit www.westernpower.co.uk/PSR
Check out ENA's infographics here: https://tinyurl.com/yd6aqzhl