Surviving Winter: Advice Providers Forum round up
Loads of valuable information, experiences and resources focussed on ways we can all support our clients through the cost-of-living crisis and beyond were shared.
Key reflections from the event
Ian Preston from CSE provided an update on our energy advice preparations for winter including how we frame advice and what financial support is available. Rajni Nair from Citizens Advice explained the role for advice within the wider cost of living crisis and how the Citizens Advice team is responding to the growing need for support, including policy work calling for an energy advice strategy and Peter Smith from NEA highlighted how the government package doesn’t go far enough and introduced NEA’s policy work calling for a new social tariff.
People in crisis
Unsurprisingly, advice providers confirmed that more people than ever need support and that case work is getting more complex. Energy advice is no longer seasonal. Although winter will see things getting much worse, the wider cost of living crisis means that energy poverty is an issue year-round.
More and more clients need immediate crisis support like urgent debt relief, food bank referrals or local welfare assistance. This means it’s more challenging to have conversations about larger energy saving measures like insulation or new heating systems.
Many advice providers shared their approaches to this challenge including immediate relief through debt support or vouchers which then paves the way for more in-depth support. Others explained redesigned service models where services are split into crisis support and then longer-term support.
Energy Advisor morale
This winter, as we continue to hear from people in crisis already doing all the no cost energy saving measures available, support is limited. We’re anticipating energy advisor morale will get quite low. Many of you reflected the importance of staff welfare and discussed initiatives like mentoring, wellbeing sessions and buddy conversations. Others highlighted the importance of focussing on the support we are able to provide such as benefits entitlement checks.
Community Energy Champions
There was a useful discussion on the role of community energy champions and participants shared how they work with volunteers in their local areas to sign post information and support in communities and sometimes perform a triage service for energy advisors.
Many advice providers shared concerns about the challenging funding landscape. The voluntary sector is picking up the pieces from the energy market failure. But despite this recognition, it’s still difficult to explain to funders that the more in-depth case work and support that’s necessary, takes more time and requires more funding. We urgently need more support for advice providers.