Residents of north-west Melbourne struggling to manage electricity bills will receive extra support from this week, with a new program launching to provide much needed relief for those in greatest distress.
A partnership between Jemena and Uniting Vic.Tas (Uniting), Uniting Energy Assist seeks to empower customers living in the Jemena Electricity Network with information to better manage their energy bills and access support programs, by offering free, over-the-phone home energy appointments.
Jemena’s Managing Director Frank Tudor said the program was a direct response to recent consumer research which highlighted that the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to disproportionately impact vulnerable community members, including renters, job seekers, young people and those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.
“From recent research conducted by Deloitte, we know around 1 in 6 people in Victoria and New South Wales are going without essentials like putting food on the table in order to pay bills,” said Mr Tudor.
“This program will assist people to not only access vital bill relief measures, like concessions and rebates, but will empower them with energy saving habits to help keep their bills down. This is especially timely as we head into summer and begin to use more power-hungry appliances like air conditioners.”
Delivered by Uniting energy experts, phone appointments offer customers practical, tailored advice to help understand their bills, check available concessions and discounts are being applied, learn easy energy saving tips and where needed, apply for retailer hardship or government support schemes. Translator support is also available for clients who would prefer to speak a language other than English.
Matt Cairns, Senior Manager of Uniting’s Energy and Financial Literacy Team said that clients accessing the program could on average expect to obtain benefits of up to $450 each.
“Whether it’s sorting out a payment plan with your energy provider, how you can use your appliances more efficiently or finding the best energy deal for you, we’ll help give you some peace of mind, he said.
“So if you’re struggling with your bills now, get in touch and we’ll help you to get back on track.”
Initially offered to customers across Jemena’s Electricity Network across Melbourne’s north-west, Jemena will consider further program roll out following the trial period.
The program also builds on Jemena’s longstanding partnership with Uniting and previous Power Changers Community Connections Program, which saw hundreds of vulnerable customers across Melbourne’s north-west receive free energy literacy, efficiency and phone counselling support over the 2018-20 period. Prior to this, Jemena was a member of the Uniting CareRing program, which connects community members experiencing financial and other complex issues to a range of services including counselling, microfinance, in-home energy audits and referrals to other relevant support agencies.
Phone appointments are available to Jemena electricity customers and can be made by contacting the Uniting team at 1800 313 126 and speaking to a representative.
For more information on the program visit our Uniting Energy Assist page.
For our top summer energy saving tips, available in multiple languages, visit our Energy Saving Tips page.