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Tackling fuel poverty and rising costs

Matt Roberts

Matt Roberts, PR advisor

Rising costs and inflation have meant a tightening on people’s finances all across the country. But in social housing the picture is even bleaker.

Around half of the people living in social housing are part of the lowest quartile of household income, and many customers also live with a disability, which puts them at further risk of falling into poverty.

Data from the most recent ONS study on the impacts of the cost of living showed that over half (55%) of disabled adults reported finding it difficult to afford their energy bills; around a third (36%) found it difficult to afford their rent – compared with 40% and 27% respectively for non-disabled people.

At Home Group, tackling poverty and supporting our customers has been a core value from the very beginning, and in recent years it has required a range of dedicated and targeted support approaches.

This has included helping customers secure competitive rent prices, but also helping them to significantly reduce their regular bills, empower them to better manage and understand their finances, and provide opportunities through guidance, education, and support.

Fuel poverty

One of the areas Home Group has heavily focused on in recent years has been around fuel poverty. Although the term became part of mainstream conversation earlier this year as a result of fuel prices skyrocketing, it has been an area of targeted support within Home Group for far longer.

In particular, as an organisation we have focused on improving the efficiency of people’s homes and helping reduce the money our customers are paying on their bills. Each year, we have been able to improve the EPC ratings of approximately 10% of our homes and we have specifically sought to prioritise that work so that we were helping those customers whose bills were highest first.

We accompanied this with working alongside a specialist in fuel poverty, LEAP, to provide effective guidance and signposting. This has been in addition to the ongoing work that our Financial Inclusion team does to support customers too and has been accompanied with dedicated cost of living communications and our money, benefits and wellbeing information our website.

In all, we have been able to reduce the overall bills of our customers by £500,000.

However, with fuel poverty likely to affect as many as 98% of people in social housing this year, it is essential that we stay proactive in supporting our customers.

Financial Inclusion Team

Tackling poverty at Home Group has been the main driver for our Financial Inclusion team. The team makes recognises that every customer is an individual and will work with them to support them with their specific circumstances.

The team has been able to assist in a range of ways including support with welfare benefits, helping with changes in circumstances, through to guidance and help right through from new babies to becoming pensionable age.

Recently they worked with pensionable age customers to maximise their income, as this group have some of the highest levels of under-claimed benefits. We’ve seen brilliant results from this campaign and intend to turn it into a rolling programme of support.

The priority for all of our customers engaging with the Financial Inclusion team is helping them to save money to make sure they can prioritise their essential bills. At the moment, for many of our customers there has been worries around keeping themselves warm and having enough food this winter.

With huge amounts of information available, it can be overwhelming to customers. From complicated information around Cost of Living payments to understanding how a customer’s bills are likely to change, our Financial Inclusion team has been able to work with customers to offer clarity and make sure they are receiving all the support they’re entitled to.
We cannot ignore that a difficult winter is ahead of us, but we are determined to help put our customers in the best position to manage cost rises and tackle poverty wherever possible.

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