Are we measuring up to your expectations? What else can we be doing to support your community?
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There are a range of circumstances which can mean that some customers are more affected by our work than others and we’re working hard to ensure that customers living in vulnerable situations are supported. We define vulnerability as:• Financial hardship: Those struggling to pay their bills due to their circumstances• Mental wellbeing: Those experiencing periods of mental illness or hardship • Physical challenges: Those with physical impairments which make day to day life more challenging and in some cases can increase the demand for warmth• Rural vulnerability: Those living in rural locations and therefore further from amenities and off-grid communities • Temporary vulnerability: Those experiencing a period of vulnerability, for example divorce, a new born baby or hospital stay
We work hard to be a valuable part of the communities we serve and make sure we’re doing right by you and your neighbours.We deliver a diverse package of support to ensure that we can reach those customers that are most in need. We’ve included some examples of the community projects that we deliver below. You might have heard of some of them.
Warm Hubs is a scheme to tackle social isolation and provide support for off-grid communities. Warm Hubs are friendly places, staffed by volunteers, where vulnerable residents can go to socialise, have a hot meal, get warm, and access advice and support. We’ve set up 20 hubs across rural Northumberland, and the first of several hubs is now open in Newcastle, in place like church halls, cafes, pubs and even a fish and chip shop! We’ve been funding the project for the past three years, and it’s now become financially self-sustaining, securing its long-term future.
Helping families save energy through Green Doctors
We also work with community energy specialists to support customers who are struggling to heat their homes. Jointly funded by us and Northern Powergrid, Green Doctors carry out home visits and give advice on how customers can save money, including access to discounted or subsidised home improvements like insulation and gas boilers. In 2017/2018, more than 700 customers were given home energy and switching advice, leading to around £100,000 lifetime savings.
Specialist staff training
We work with specialist partners to train our staff to spot signs of vulnerability and give the right support. More than 360 colleagues have become Dementia Friends, and a group of our team have been trained by Durham Fire and Rescue Service to identify potential fire risks in our customers’ homes.
We give funding to community groups with social initiatives. Through our Community Partnering Fund, in collaboration with Northern Powergrid, we’ve awarded £150,000 to grass roots projects so far, with successful projects ranging from a community radio project to promote fuel efficiency, to an outreach programme raising CO awareness among refugee and immigrant communities. And in the first year alone, 3,490 vulnerable and hard to reach customers were given practical support and advice.
Connecting fuel-poor customers to the gas network
Households not connected to the gas grid are among the coldest and most expensive to heat in the UK. We have provided free gas connections for fuel-poor households since 2008, bringing affordable warmth to customers struggling to heat their homes. Since 2013, we’ve connected more than 10,000 homes for free (ahead of the target of 8,651), helping people to stay warm and save money.
Raising awareness of CO poisoning – what causes it, the symptoms and how to avoid it
We provide a range of support and educational activities to make people aware of the fact that around 30 people in the UK die as a result of CO poisoning every year, and over 4000 present to A&E with symptoms. Initiatives include on the doorstep briefings with customers to giving away free audio CO alarms to campaigns to raise awareness of the risks when camping and BBQing.
Thinking about the following areas, how much do you agree that we should continue to provide that kind of support to the community and customers in vulnerable situations? Please use a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is not important and 10 is very important.
How important is it that each of the following outcomes for customers are delivered in the vulnerability strategy that we are developing? Please use a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is not important and 10 is very important.
Our volunteering policy gives every colleague the opportunity to take two days’ paid leave each year to undertake volunteering activities.
Colleagues who wish to volunteer can either support a community partner or another charity of their choice.
Background readingWe provide a range of support to help customers to save money on their energy bills, including energy efficiency advice. This next set of questions will focus on that.
Please give us the first half of your home or business postcode. We’ll use this information to check that you live or work within the region we serve. We’ll keep this information confidential and only use it for research purposes. Please write in as AB12.
As a thank you for taking part in our survey, you’re eligible to be entered into a prize draw where the two winners will receive a £500 amazon.co.uk Gift Card and 10 runners up will receive a £100 amazon.co.uk Gift Card. You can read the terms and conditions here. If you’d like to be entered, please give your email address (or telephone number) below. We’ll only use this to contact you about the prize draw. Please provide your email address and telephone number in order to be entered.