This comes after Sovereign launched a £10,000 partnership with Pocket Power to support those of its customers struggling with fuel poverty.
Social enterprise Pocket Power supports people to change provider for energy, broadband and mobile phones, and is offering researched advice and support via a free phone number.
The service saves households an average of £420 a year, reducing some families’ bills by as much as 20%.
1 in 10 people, or five million British adults, have less than £10 a month left over once they have paid their essential bills.
Figures released recently by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimate that around 400k homes could be pushed into fuel poverty this winter, as energy bills are set to rise by almost 10%.
Last year, Sovereign gave out 576 fuel vouchers totalling over £25k to customers who were struggling to pay their bills, offering tangible support at a point in time where many people didn’t know where to turn.
People on the lowest incomes often end up paying more for essential goods and services as they may not have the best fuel tariff or the means to switch to a better one.
This small change is essential as it has an impact on budgets as well as a customers’ health and wellbeing.
A study quoted in the Public Health England paper ‘Fuel poverty and cold home-related health problems’ found that people with asthma were two to three times more likely to live in cold and damp household conditions than non-asthmatics.
The same report shows that visits to the doctors for respiratory tract infections increased by up to 19% for every one degree drop in mean temperature below 5°C.
In 2012-13, there were an estimated 29,200 excess winter deaths in England, with estimates suggesting that around 10% of excess winter deaths are directly attributable to fuel poverty and that 21.5% of excess winter deaths are attributable to the coldest 25% of homes.
Andrew Cooper, head of Business Development and Fundraising, said: “The service is unique because it addresses three barriers to switching that people face: time, tech and trust.
“Applicants simply call a free phone line where they can switch to cheaper providers and apply for discounts.
“Our customers can currently be referred by someone from Sovereign such as a tenancy support advisor or employment and training advisor, as we roll the service out gradually.
“However, as we progress, referrals might come from someone on our trades or housing team.
“We’ll trial a pilot approach where we ask our people to have a simple conversation with customers if they’re at their homes.
“For example, they might notice that it feels chilly inside, or that the meter has not been topped up – and at that point they could mention the fact that we can offer support, or flag it to our support teams in another way.
“This means we can start a dialogue with customers that’s backed up with access to our other offers including independent debt advice, budgeting courses, digital courses, fuel poverty vouchers, the Sovereign support fund – and of course all of our employment and training support.
“We don’t want to interfere – we don’t want to coddle. But we do want to make sure that those of our customers who are faced with heating hassles know where to turn. Heat or eat quite simply shouldn’t be a question that has to be asked any more.”
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