As an essential service provider, AGL has a responsibility to ensure we provide appropriate support to vulnerable members of our community.
These services not only need to be available, but we also need to be proactive in promoting these initiatives to the communities that will benefit from them. One of the ways we do this is by attending or leading community sessions so we can directly engage with the community on the help that’s available to them.
Late last week, Dimitri Georgacopoulos, AGL’s Affordability Manager and Sonia Oke, AGL’s South Australian Community Relations Manager attended a ConnectEd session hosted by Uniting Communities at the Salisbury Migrant Resource Centre, South Australia.
Uniting Communities hold regular sessions focused on providing community members from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds access to information to assist them in their day-to-day living. This session was designed to provide information about energy retailers, financial counsellors and how to reduce energy consumption.
Dimitri presented about AGL and our national hardship program, Staying Connected. To enhance the effectiveness of communications, four interpreters translated Dimitri’s presentation, conveying the information to the different ethnicities present.
Feedback on the session was very positive, with many attendees expressing their appreciation for the support available for vulnerable members of our community.
This is important and satisfying work, from Sonia’s perspective, “It was such a valuable experience and made me so proud to be working for a company that is proactive in supporting our customers that are experiencing hardship.”
This session was just one of a number of community events planned by the Affordability team over the next six months.
Key points from our staying connected program
- Manageable payment amounts based on what customers can afford
- Protection from disconnection while engaged on the program
- No conditional requirements - i.e. pay on time discounts/over the counter fees
- Access to Financial Counsellors
- Free home energy audits
Assistance for customers experiencing hardship
Last year we introduced new measures to identify and support hardship customers. In our FY18 financial results, we also announced $50 million of debt relief for hardship customers, a $6 million Energy Literacy fund to support and empower vulnerable customers and a $2 million program to provide dedicated assistance for small businesses.
In addition to our existing hardship policy across NSW, Qld and SA, we introduced a new hardship policy for our Victorian customers, Payment Support, in response to the Essential Services Commission’s (ESC) new Payment Difficulty Framework, which commenced 1 January 2019.
AGL offers hardship customers a higher level of assistance than under the various minimum regulatory frameworks, including our Here to Help tool and a range of Easy Ways to Pay options.
The program offers a range of assistance measures including access to financial counsellors, guaranteed discounts, payment plans, depending on circumstance placing bill payments missed on hold, energy reviews, audits and tips, and protection from disconnection.