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Support during the energy crisis

With the ongoing reports from members about tenants struggling with rising energy costs, as well as the known difficulties in contacting energy suppliers and resourcing challenges for advice services, SFHA has provided some further information on the sources of help available to the sector.   

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Last week’s Spring Budget announcement by the UK Chancellor confirmed that the Energy Price Guarantee will be maintained at £2,500 for a further 3 months, saving a typical household around £160. While this intervention is welcome, typical energy costs (based on an average dual fuel customer) are still more than double what they were in April 2021. With the ongoing reports from members about tenants struggling with rising energy costs, as well as the known difficulties in contacting energy suppliers and resourcing challenges for advice services, SFHA has provided some further information on the sources of help available to the sector.   

Our previous article from November 2022 can still be accessed here. It includes a further list of resources to help social landlords and their tenants to keep up to date with the support available during the energy crisis.  

  1. Getting through to energy suppliers
  2. Difficulties installing and replacing meters
  3. Supporting pre-payment customers
  4. Demand for energy advice and advocacy
  5. Challenges with non-domestic energy market
  6. Update on the Radio Teleswitch Service
  7. SFHA's Energy and Net Zero Forum

Getting through to energy suppliers

Advice Direct Scotland (ADS) have also confirmed that they can support SFHA members and their tenants in getting priority cases through to energy supplier helplines. Simply complete the third-party mandate form (found to the right-hand side of this article) and once completed email it along with the details of the case to enquiries@energyadvice.scot. ADS can then share the form with the supplier and once your staff member has been named on the account, then they will be able to assist by phone and transfer through to the supplier if needed.    

For void properties which do not yet have a tenant, our associates Utility Aid can also offer a void management service to help to manage change of tenancies and unoccupied or abandoned properties. They can liaise with both housing officers and suppliers, in order to process change of tenancies for both pre-pay and billed meters and help to resolve issues on your behalf, therefore reduce the need for RSL staff to spend their time trying to get through to energy suppliers. Please contact Emily Berry, Partnership Manager, eberry@utility-aid.com for more information. 

Difficulties installing and replacing meters 

The various challenges around meter installations in the social sector have also been raised with Ofgem and other stakeholders as part of a joint briefing  based-on information provided to SFHA, ALACHO, COSLA, GWSF and SPA. Ofgem have agreed to support the sector’s call for a quicker resolution of meter issues in void properties by facilitating a further session with energy retail suppliers so affected properties can be tackled urgently.  

As part of this, Ofgem have asked for RSLs and local authorities in Scotland to share further information to help understand the scale of the issue. Thank you to those who have already provided information either to SFHA or one of the other organisations involved in the joint briefing. However, we only have information from a small number of organisations. If you have outstanding void properties due to energy supplier or metering issues and would like further support to resolve these, please share further information by 7th April via this form.   

Supporting pre-payment customers 

Following the recent reports in the media on forced installations of pre-payment meters by energy suppliers, the UK Government and Ofgem have now intervened, resulting in a ban on forced installations, a national market review of the devices and a review of all rules, regulations and guidance in relation to these meter types.1 As part of the recent budget announcement, it has also been confirmed prepayment customers will no longer face additional charges when compared with direct debit customers, with typical savings of £45 per year expected.  

However, we are aware that pre-payment customers still remain disadvantaged and at risk of self-rationing or self-disconnection. These meters are also particularly common in social housing with an estimated 42% of households in the social sector relying on a pre-payment, compared to only 21% in the private rented sector and around 5% of owner occupiers2. SFHA is therefore continuing to campaign for additional financial support  to support social tenants as part of the Social Housing Fuel Support Fund.  

Citizens Advice and Ofgem are also gathering further examples of consumer experiences of both gas and electricity pre-payment meters to help identify cases where suppliers are not following the rules and allow Ofgem to take further action where needed.  The following webform can be shared with tenants who wish to share their experiences or alternatively SFHA members can submit any relevant example and case studies with Cassandra Dove, SFHA Policy Lead (cdove@sfha.co.uk). 

Demand for energy advice and advocacy 

We are aware that members have reported the need for emergency financial support to run alongside wth activities with sustained impact, such as tailored energy advice and advocacy. We therefore held a roundtable with our strategic partners Changeworks and previous recipients of the Fuel Support Fund earlier this year to understand the current challenges around energy advice provision and explore more sustainable models for shared energy advice services. While members had differing needs on what would work best for their organisation and tenants, there was appetite to build on existing infrastructure and local knowledge and improve collaboration.  

Options for longer term solutions will therefore be taken forward by Changeworks as a dedicated workstream in 2023 and we will be working together to explore funding options which would support a more sustainable approach. Any SFHA members who are interested in further discussions with Changeworks on collaborative energy advice services for are also invited to note their interest by contacting Changeworks directly at workwithus@changeworks.org.uk.  

Challenges with non-domestic energy market 

We are aware that members have also been experiencing issues in securing commercial energy contracts, including for communal heating systems and ‘heat with rent’ schemes. As part of a recent meeting with members3, SFHA raised these concerns with Ofgem who have now published an update on their ongoing review of the non-domestic market and launched a further ‘call for input’ focussed on recent experiences with non-domestic gas and electricity suppliers. Please contact cdove@sfha.co.uk if you would like your experiences to help feed into the response. 

Utility Aid can also provide support in procuring and managing non-domestic energy contracts. More information can be found in the recording of last month’s webinar on Navigating the ever changing world of energy.  

Update on the Radio Teleswitch Service 

It was announced last month that the Radio Teleswitching (RTS) arrangements have been extended until at least 31st March 2024. However there remain a significant number of RTS meters in circulation in Scotland. Further targeted outreach is needed to make sure that these are upgraded ahead of the service being closed down. Energy UK will lead a dedicated workstream on this throughout 2023 and SFHA members are invited to sign up to Energy UK’s forthcoming RTS newsletter by contacting RTS@energy-uk.org.uk and asking to be added to the distribution list.  

SFHA’s Energy and Net Zero Forum 

We would also advise any SFHA members who are not yet a member of the Energy and Net Zero Forum to sign up to the mailing list and Microsoft Teams Channel. We currently have over 50 organisations signed up but would like to make sure all of our members are able to keep up to date with energy related updates. Click here to join or please share with relevant colleagues who would benefit from joining.  

The next session will be taking place on Thu 18 May (10am – 12pm) and you can book your place via our website: https://www.sfha.co.uk/whats-on/event-details/energy-and-net-zero-forum-may-23  

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