15th June 2021


social and third sector




To feedback what we’ve been working on since we last met and how your feedback is shaping our plans and direction. Specifically, we wanted to provide an update on our Hardship Fund in its first year with a ‘partner spotlight’ on one of our fund delivery partners around the repair and replacement of appliances.  Finally, we wanted to share information with our partners on the new Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA) scheme and understand what we must, should and could consider when designing a new service under the VCMA scheme, around the repair and replacement of appliances

Your comments & our responses

Hardship Fund

You told us that you thought our Hardship Fund was designed in the right way and that you were keen to understand the outputs from its first year next April. Whilst you agreed that it addressed the gaps that exist in funding support for our customers, you were mindful that the name of the fund might deter people from applying and accessing support. Following a live poll at the event, 53% of you voted in favour of renaming the Hardship Fund to Customer Support Fund, to better reflect its purpose.

Considering this feedback, we will change the name of the fund to the Customer Support Fund.

Measuring impact

Whilst you were impressed with the outcomes of the appliance repair and replacement programme we are delivering with Foundations for Independent Living Trust (FILT), you asked about how they  are measuring the social return on investment (SROI) of the programme and as how NGN measure this.

FILT advised that they have undertaken some research around SROI. We explained how we use a SROI model internally, to support decisions and understand the benefits of the work we deliver. NGN recognise that a SROI model is something that our community and project partners would also find beneficial to understand the true impact of the projects and work undertaken. Consequently, we are looking to develop a simple partner SROI toolkit, as part of our plan to create a suite of better on-line collaborative facilities for our partners.

Designing a new service

Having shared the criteria for the new essential gas appliance servicing, replacement and repair service to meet VCMA funding, you told us that we must consider several aspects when designing a service. Most importantly, you stated that we must include training for community officers and front-line staff to identify vulnerabilities and consider where their role starts and ends in the service.

We recognise the importance of our engineers in designing any support service for customers. We are already embarking on the roll out of the Making Every Contact Count process, which has involved our engineers. Engineers are being trained to ensure that  vulnerable customers can get access to the appropriate support and onward referral routes, when we disconnect an appliance.

A sensitive topic

You also told us to consider the referral process and eligibility criteria as part of the system but, most importantly, we needed to be mindful that affordability and vulnerability is a sensitive topic for customers.

We recognise that this is often a difficult area for both customers and engineers. As part of any service, we will ensure the team has the capacity and right training to have conversations sensitively around affordability and safety, in order deliver the right support for customers

Best practice

It was clear that you felt we needed to consider scale of need and the processes involved in this and said we should look at things that already exist, to avoid duplication and identify best practice

We recognise that several other GDNs have already begun to design their services around the repair and replace of appliances. It is evident from the feedback received from our stakeholders on the service design, that it aligns with a service which Cadent Gas have already designed and piloted. As such, we are keen to explore the potential to deliver a service jointly with Cadent Gas.