Affordable housing provider Orbit has conducted its first piece of in-depth research into how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting customers.
Conducted in March and April 2023, the research sought the views of 800 representative renters and owners about how the crisis is impacting their everyday living, health and finances. The feedback will be used to help Orbit further enhance its existing package of support for customers to ensure that it is focussed on the issues where customers say they are struggling most.
Some of the key findings of the research include:
- Three times more renters than owners ‘worry all the time’ about meeting everyday costs
- Nearly a third (31%) of all responders are skipping meals to reduce costs, whilst nearly three quarters said that they had either turned the heating down (75%) or off completely (72%) during the winter months
- 62% of Orbit customers said that they had stopped or cut back on children’s activities or after school clubs compared to 45% of people nationally* who said they had made the same sacrifice
- Orbit 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
- Cost-of-living is taking its toll health-wise with 27% saying it’s impacted their physical health and 50% saying it has impacted their mental health
- 61% of Orbit customers are deemed to be in ‘relative poverty’ in line with Office National Statistics’ definitions which compares with 17% of all individuals.
Paul Richards, Group Director for Customers and Communities for Orbit commented: “It’s no surprise that the cost-of-living crisis is placing additional strain on many of our customers, but this piece of research provides the richest data we have secured so far around finances and income and gives us a much deeper understanding of how the cost-of-living is affecting the day to day lives of customers. We’re extremely proud of the extra support measures we’ve already introduced to support customers through the current challenges and this new insight will help us to ensure that we’re responding to the concerns of customers and focussing on the areas where they say they need most help.”
Orbit has introduced a number of new services as part of its Better Days programme to help customers manage their finances, maximise their income and reduce the pressure of cost-of-living increases.
This included an Energy Advice Service in partnership with National Energy Action (NEA), a Welfare Advice Service provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau, a new cost-of-living support and education hub on Orbit’s customer website and an increased capacity in its mental health support service, Breathing Space, which is commissioned with Mind and Aspire4u.
In addition to the extra benefit services, Orbit’s Tenancy Sustainment Team have provided over 2,800 customer coaching sessions, supporting more than 1,000 customers into training and over 300 into employment or volunteering – working with people most in need to help manage their wellbeing, maximise their income and ultimately to maintain their tenancies.
Lucy McGovern, Head of Thriving Communities at Orbit added: “Data is invaluable when it comes to shaping our services and wider support we offer our customers. It enables us to ensure we are targeting our investment in a way that will have the maximum social impact for our customers, help them to sustain their tenancies and maintain their personal wellbeing. Our latest insights have not only reaffirmed that we are taking the right approach but are pivotal in informing our next steps.”
*Savanta “Cost of Living Poll –BBC –16 January 2023” –January 2023