UK Power Networks and Scope trial voucher scheme for disabled customers

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  Posted by: electime      23rd August 2023

Disabled people who rely on electricity for medical reasons and have a credit meter have received vouchers towards their energy bill through a pioneering charity-business partnership.

The first-of-its-kind fuel voucher trial in partnership with disability equality charity Scope saw over 1,000 customers of Scope’s Disability Energy Support service across England and Wales, receive an £80 voucher towards their energy bill, providing immediate financial relief during the ‘cost of living’ crisis. Customers also got longer term support including advice on benefits, energy trust fund applications, water debt relief, and energy and water efficiency.

Working closely with the Post Office, those receiving support could easily collect their credit meter fuel vouchers from their nearest Post Office via Payout. Post Office Payout offers a secure, accessible way manage refunds and customer cash-back without the need for paperwork. Customers really valued the support with 80 per cent of customers reporting a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing as a result. 

The scheme began in November 2022 and ran until the end of March 2023, and was shortlisted earlier this year at the Business Charity Awards. UK Power Networks is now considering how it can build on the success of the trial.

Research by Scope found that disabled households face on average extra costs of £975 a month to reach an equal standard of living with non-disabled households. Financial support at an early stage, when costs start to squeeze a household budget, has been proven to reduce the risk of credit meter customers accumulating more debt or being switched to a prepayment meter.

One customer who received the voucher said: “Thank you so much, my electric bill has almost doubled this quarter. Between the stress of bills and life, this voucher really did alleviate some of that stress and anxiety.” 

Since the start of the crisis, the number of users of Scope’s online energy information and advice has more than tripled. Following the pilot’s success, learnings continue to be shared with the wider electricity industry and the approach has been developed so that other organisations can help more customers across the UK.

Ian Cameron, director of Customer Service and Innovation at UK Power Networks said: Electricity is a service essential for life. Our customers rely on it, and some lives depend on it. At UK Power Networks, we have a social responsibility to our customers, and it is clear the impact of these vouchers goes much further than their monetary value.

We’re incredibly proud to have worked with Scope to prove that a scheme like this works and can have a profound impact on our people’s lives. We hope that other companies will adopt this tried and tested mechanism to support more customers as we look towards what will likely be another difficult winter.

Michael Winehouse, Head of Partnerships Income at disability equality charity Scope, said: This scheme has been a lifeline for disabled people in crisis, facing sky-high energy bills with nowhere to turn.

Life costs a lot more when you’re disabled. Many disabled people have cut back everything they can and are facing impossible choices like going without heating or medical equipment, or spiralling into deeper debt.

“A voucher can provide a bit of breathing space so someone can make a hot meal or put the heating on.

We hope many more across the industry will follow UK Power Networks’ lead and provide tangible, urgent support to disabled people and their families.

Andrew Goddard, Head of Payments at Post Office said: “We are really pleased to be able to support UK Power Networks and Scope in helping get vital funds to energy customers. Our Payout product has helped get over £1 billion out to people in the last year. These are often people who are excluded from mainstream services and who really value the role of cash and the in person service the Post Office provides.

“We are seeing increased interest in Payout as a way to get cash and energy credit to customers in a cost-effective way which is simple for the end user. The cost of living continues to squeeze household budgets. Getting financial support to people quickly, through our 11,500 strong network can provide a real lifeline for customers.”