Distribution network operator (DNO) UK Power Networks (UKPN) has partnered with disability charity Scope to trial an energy voucher scheme for disabled people with credit meters.
UKPN said the scheme was the first of its kind, and saw over 1,000 customers with Scope’s Disability Energy Support service in England and Wales receive an £80 voucher.
Customers also received support on benefits, energy trust fund applications, water debt relief and energy efficiency as part of the scheme. The companies worked with the Post Office to allow customers to collect their vouchers and manage refunds without the need for paperwork.
UKPN said that 80% of customers reported a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing as a result of the support since the scheme ran from November 2022 to the end of March 2023. UKPN outlined it is now considering how to build on the success of the trial.
Scope has found that disabled households have average extra costs of £975 a month to achieve the same living standards as non-disabled households. They found that early financial support reduced the risk of credit meter customers accumulating more debt.
The energy crisis has seen the number of users of Scope’s online energy information and advice more than triple.
Ian Cameron, director of customer service and innovation at UK Power Networks said: “Electricity is a service essential for life. Our customers rely on it, and some lives depend on it. At UKPN, we have a social responsibility to our customers, and it is clear the impact of these vouchers goes much further than their monetary value.
“We’re incredibly proud to have worked with Scope to prove that a scheme like this works and can have a profound impact on our people’s lives. We hope that other companies will adopt this tried and tested mechanism to support more customers as we look towards what will likely be another difficult winter.”
Michael Winehouse, head of partnerships income at Scope, said: “This scheme has been a lifeline for disabled people in crisis, facing sky-high energy bills with nowhere to turn. Life costs a lot more when you’re disabled. Many disabled people have cut back everything they can and are facing impossible choices like going without heating or medical equipment, or spiralling into deeper debt.
“We hope many more across the industry will follow UKPNs’ lead and provide tangible, urgent support to disabled people and their families.”
UKPN has recently announced a scheme with Octopus to offer customers free electricity in periods of abundance. The company also wrote to Ofgem and Citizens Advice about the need to take a collaborative approach to customer interests, like planning for emergency power cuts and designing consistent ways to help customers in fuel poverty