As we approach the festive season, the reality of keeping homes affordably warm is brought into sharper focus with the additional financial pressure that Christmas brings. As a team manager in our busy customer service team, which is currently handling more than 5,000 calls per month, I know that the shorter days, the colder nights and of course, the added factor of COVID-19 are all making 2020 an especially tough challenge for many of our customers. This time of the year is very often when we take our most difficult calls.
The people we help are some of the most vulnerable in society and their personal circumstances are never straightforward. From elderly, isolated customers to those suffering with mental health issues, loneliness, and disabilities; to single parents and those dealing with the loss of a job or more poignantly, the loss of a loved one, they each have their own realities to deal with. One thing is for sure, the inability to stay affordably warm in their own home is something that unites them.
We know that our customers are making hard decisions at this time of year. At Christmas, there is always an increase in food bills and with The Trussell Trust reporting that food bank use has doubled in 2020, we know that many families are having to choose every day as to whether they can afford to heat their home or put food on the table.
I am very grateful to be in a role where I can offer real help to people when it’s needed most and it’s always great to see the genuine and heartfelt responses that we get from our customers about the service that has been provided to them. My team also deals with the cases where we don’t get it right first time – thankfully that’s very rare but even those occasions offer us the opportunity to learn and improve what we do.
As a team, we try to treat customers as individuals and recognise that their circumstances are always different. We don’t know anything about why or how people have ended up in or at risk of fuel poverty, but it’s important for us to deal with each person and each case in the most individual way we can. I’ve learned a lot in my time at Warmworks about the complexity of fuel poverty and the many different consequences that it can have in so many aspects of people’s lives. Our role is to be empathetic, to listen and to find solutions that work for them.
I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know that for me and the wider team, we will remain committed to making sure that our service continues to be personal and responsive, tailored to individual needs, and to supporting people through the impossible choices they have to make. At this time of year, more than any other, all we can do is try to help, to solve problems and change people’s lives for the better.