Affordable housing provider Orbit, has commenced the second year of its successful partnership with National Energy Action (NEA) as part of its efforts to support customers struggling with winter energy bills.
Orbit first commissioned NEA to deliver an energy advice service to its customers in November 2022 as an immediate response to the cost-of-living crisis and as part of Orbit’s existing Better Days programme which offers free support to customers on a range of issues including financial inclusion, mental health, employment, skills and digital training.
The energy advice service provides specialist assistance to Orbit customers most in need via telephone, face to face community events, home visits and through the distribution of energy saving packs.
Whilst the support each customer receives is dependent on their circumstances, it includes support with accessing energy grants, fuel debt applications, prepayment vouchers, liaising with energy suppliers, and changing tariffs or payment types. It also allows the energy advisors to determine the root causes of high energy bills allowing for energy efficiency and behavioural advice and referrals back into Orbit where issues with heating systems or the fabric of the building are identified.
In the first year, the partnership:
- Provided 635 vulnerable customers with energy support
- Generated an average energy saving of £382 per customer supported (£242,642 in total)
- Distributed 698 Winter Warmth packs (containing items to help customers stay warm and save energy) to the most vulnerable customers
- Held face-to-face customer energy advice events in the community
- 10 Orbit colleagues also completed the Level 3 Energy Awareness qualification offered by NEA to equip front-line colleagues to deliver an effective advice.
NEA estimates there are 6.5 million UK households in fuel poverty. Orbit’s own research conducted with 800 representative customers in March and April this year, revealed that nearly three quarters had either turned the heating down (75%) or off completely (72%) during the winter months. Orbit also has twice as many households (29%) using prepayment meters compared to the UK average (14%) and of these, 32% of customers said that they had been unable to afford to top up their meters at least once over the last 12 months.
Lucy McGovern, Head of Thriving Communities commented: “Through our partnership with National Energy Action, Orbit is successfully supporting some of its most vulnerable customers to remain warm and well in their homes via expert advice. In its first year, the service identified nearly £250k of customer savings and provided behavioural advice to nearly 700 people to help them to manage their energy usage and bills and remain warm and well through the cost of living and energy crises. Often a customer’s issues are not just limited to energy and so by offering this advice as part of our Better Days programme, we can offer a holistic approach that ensures customers get wider support too with issues such as financial management, mental health, employment and skills.”
Danni Barnes, Director of Development and Partnerships at National Energy Action says: “Two years since the energy crisis began and energy bills are increasing by another 5% in January. National Energy Action is pleased to work alongside Orbit to give as many residents as possible practical and effective energy advice, by training advisers, by handing out Winter Warmth Support Packs and by empowering them with knowledge.”