A new guide to help energy suppliers identify and support consumers in vulnerable circumstances has been launched by the Money Advice Trust (MAT) and trade body Energy UK.
The guide, Vulnerability, mental health, and the energy sector: A guide to help identify and support consumers, was launched this week (October 9). It provides practical tools for frontline staff to use with consumers in a range of vulnerable situations.
Consumer vulnerability is high on the energy industry’s agenda following Ofgem’s recently modified domestic Standards of Conduct requiring gas and electricity suppliers to better identify consumers in vulnerable situations.
Energy UK said with the number of energy suppliers increasing, this guide comes at an important time to assist suppliers in training staff to improve their support to customers.
The guide has been written by vulnerability leads at MAT, Chris Fitch and Colin Trend, who have drawn on the charity’s experience of working with collections staff to improve the experience and outcomes of customers with mental health problems and in vulnerable circumstances.
Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK said: “This is a challenge that is not unique to energy companies - across our society we need to take huge leaps forward in recognising and responding to the impact that mental health issues can have on a large part of the population.”
In addition to covering a range of vulnerable situations, the guide includes specific guidance on helping consumers with mental health problems or mental capacity limitations.
The guide covers four key areas for energy suppliers:
With increasing awareness of vulnerability and mental health in the industry, and the launch of events like World Mental Health Day and the Heads Together campaign, PayPlan said the stigmas around these topics is slowly being removed.
Emma Gibbons, a client support specialist at debt advice provider PayPlan, said more people are being open about their mental health concerns.
She added: “Since November last year, our advisers have seen more than 1,000 new vulnerable people contacting us about their debts, prepared to speak openly about their issues. Over the last 18 months this number is increasing month on month.”