So far, we are receiving a lot of our referrals from community groups, particularly Sustainable Merton, with 50% of our referrals coming from Facebook and Twitter. Since setting up in late April, we have trained a large number of volunteers over Zoom, including some in Portugal and Poland. They have weekly Zoom meetings to discuss the main issues they encounter and further train and support one another.
Major challenges our clients face
Clients are coming to us for advice on how to securely top-up for their pre-payment meters. This challenge is two-fold: if clients are vulnerable or ill, they cannot leave the house and must ask a friend or neighbour to top up for them. However, even those who can safely leave the house are struggling to find locations where they can top up since online top-up information is often not up to date and their usual Post Offices or local shops may be closed.
Many clients are very unclear on what help is available to them and where they can find it. Most suppliers' web pages direct customers to a phone line that should be only be used 'in an emergency'. Their COVID-19 advice pages, however, suggest vulnerable customers call them to discuss their options.
Provider-specific discounts and grants
There has been some confusion over the grants available from certain suppliers. One common misconception is that those are not with Thames Water cannot apply for Water Sure with other water companies. They can! Most suppliers have their own form of discount scheme. You can find out more via this link.
CREW will shortly be announcing a direct phone number in addition to this callback service.
But we don't want to stop with advice! We are also asking the government to do more to help those at risk of fuel poverty, since the elderly and vulnerable are the demographic most drastically affected by both this and COVID-19.
We have been sharing a petition on social media from Fuel Poverty Action petitioning the government to provide an amnesty/waive energy debt through the COVID-19 crisis: COVID-19 : Guarantee people's heat and power. The FPA are also campaigning for a 'warm floor' - a certain level of energy that everyone would get for free. We'd love it if you could sign!
We'll be back soon with more updates. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this service or would like to speak to us about your bills, email firstname.lastname@example.org.