A Government campaign has urged householders and businesses to ensure that they are availing of the supports that are in place to help all of us through this challenging winter. Alongside key partners like the CRU (Commission for Regulation of Utilities), MABS (Money and Budgeting Advice Service), ALONE and SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland), the Government is asking people to stay warm and well this winter and to know that help is available if they need it over the coming weeks and months.
This is the key message in the new winter season phase of ‘Reduce Your Use’, announced at the ALONE offices in Dublin. The Reduce Your Use page and hashtag (#ReduceYourUse) provide a signpost to specific, existing sources of help that are out there, to help people identify appropriate supports for their needs over the coming winter period.
‘Reduce Your Use’ is a cross-Government public information campaign which commenced in April 2022.
The nationwide campaign will run right across the heating season and will evolve as needed to meet the changing information needs and concerns of the public. This new phase of the campaign is based on research which shows that most people are worried about the energy situation, primarily because it is such an unknown. However, research also shows that people are looking for clarity on where they can go to get help and support, and what they can do to make the biggest difference to their energy bills.
As part of the multi-media campaign, an information leaflet, detailing how to access Government supports and advice on how to be more conscious about energy usage, will also be delivered to every home in the country.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, said, “the research we carried out shows clearly that everyone feels affected by the energy crisis. However, some groups in our society are more affected than others – older people; people on lower incomes; people with young families, for example. The Government is acutely aware of the difficulties people are facing. This new phase of Reduce Your Use is, first and foremost, about providing clear information to people about the supports, help and advice that is available, from Government firstly, and also through specialist groups like MABS or ALONE, for example. We are also encouraging families and businesses to save money by being efficient in their energy use, but only when it is safe to do so. It is important that everyone stays warm and well.”
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) plays a key role in protecting energy consumers. It sets out the code of conduct by which all energy suppliers must treat their customers, in Supplier Handbooks. It monitors the marketplace – engaging with both suppliers and representatives from national support groups. Additional customer protection measures in place for this winter include extended moratoriums on disconnections, extended repayment periods for customers in debt, and reduced debt burdens on Pay-as-You-Go customers.
In addition to these protections, the supplier-led Energy Engage Code provides a peace of mind for domestic electricity and gas users. It encourages households, that are having difficulties with bills, to engage with their suppliers – to manage debt. Under this code, suppliers will not disconnect anyone who is engaging with them and will offer a range of payment options (such as a debt-repayment plan for anyone in arrears).
The CRU Customer Care Team provides a free information service and a free dispute resolution service for consumers and electricity/gas customers. More information on these protections is available at: https://www.cru.ie/home/customer-care/energy/.
Aoife MacEvilly, chairperson of the CRU, said, “while this winter will be a challenging time in the face of rising energy costs, it is important for all energy customers to know that there is a wide range of specific measures in place to protect them. Over the last number of months, the CRU has been particularly focused on the customers who may find themselves in the greatest difficulty, including vulnerable customers, customers who may fall into debt and customers on financial hardship prepayment meters. The new enhanced customer protection measures announced in August will provide an additional layer of reassurance to those customers over the next number of months. The CRU will continue working with suppliers, our Customer Stakeholder Group and the Department on the implementation of these measures this winter.”
SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) is Ireland’s national sustainable energy authority. SEAI works with householders, businesses, communities and Government.
Speaking at the event, William Walsh, CEO of SEAI, said, “we are working in very close partnership with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications – to help everyone reduce their energy use, now and for good. This starts with advising householders and businesses how to reduce their energy bills through changing habits, better practice and often common-sense guidance on heating and electricity. We are also delighted to see the huge interest in our Government-funded grants for home energy upgrades, helping homeowners to improve the comfort of their homes while reducing their energy bills and harmful CO2 emissions. These schemes provide options and solutions for all budgets and all levels of ambition.”
MABS is the state-funded Money Advice and Budgeting Service. It has been supporting people with money advice, budgeting, and problem debt for 30 years. The MABS service is free, confidential, independent and non-judgemental.
MABS is available for you if you’re struggling with debt (including utility bills) or at risk of getting into debt and need help. You can get impartial advice from MABS to help you manage your money and take control of your finances. MABS offers support:
- Online through their website www.mabs.ie;
- Over the phone through their Helpline 0818-07-2000 (Monday to Friday 9:00am–8:00pm);
- Face-to-face through their network of over 60 offices nationwide.
MABS is funded and supported by the Department of Social Protection, through the Citizens Information Board.
Karl Cronin, National Spokesperson, MABS, said, “MABS is delighted to work with the Government on this campaign. Electricity and heating costs are priority expenses for every household and should be budgeted for accordingly. Where possible, weekly payments should be made towards electricity and heating costs to keep them under control and avoid arrears building up and becoming a problem. There are a number of supports available for households struggling to meet these costs. Advice and information on these are available from our MABS Helpline and our network of MABS offices. No one should be left without light or heat this winter – MABS is here to help.”
ALONE is a national organisation that enables older people to age at home. It works on behalf of all older people and aims to improve physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Any older person who has concerns about their energy costs, finances, health, housing, or wellbeing this winter can call ALONE’s National Support and Referral Line – for access to services, advice and information, by calling 0818-222-024, 8:00am-8:00pm, seven days a week.
Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, said, “we know from the older people we work with that many are very concerned about their energy costs this winter, and have been feeling the impact of rising costs for some time. We are pleased to work with Government on the Reduce Your Use campaign to highlight that older people should not restrict their energy usage in ways that could impact their health this winter. Keeping warm and well is not just an issue of comfort, but a health issue. ALONE staff and volunteers are in place nationwide – to offer practical support and to coordinate services for and with older people to address their energy needs this winter, whether that is support with paying a bill, advice on how to minimise your energy costs while staying well, linking you in with relevant practical supports, or if you are simply concerned about the winter to come.”