In a period of continued economic downturn, more and more people in the UK are struggling to pay their household bills as incomes fall short of meeting the rising cost of living. We recognise that many households are experiencing financial pressure and are slipping into debt. British Gas therefore remains committed to providing effective support and advice to those who need it the most. One of the ways British Gas does this is through the British Gas Energy Trust.
The British Gas Energy Trust is an independent charitable Trust established by British Gas in 2004. The Trust provides grants and advice to both British Gas customers, and members of the wider public, who are struggling to pay their energy and other household bills in England, Scotland and Wales.
In 2013 we invested £18m into the Trust. £10m of this related to a donation agreed with Ofgem in response to the interpretation of regulations on the calculation of thermal energy in gas. As refunding customers was not practical because the miscalculation amounted to a few pence per customer, we made this contribution in addition to our annual donation. This brings British Gas’ total contributions to £63.7m since its creation.
The Energy Trust also plays a vital role supporting other energy and debt advice centres in order for us to collectively reach a greater number of vulnerable people who acquire assistance. The energy advice centres provide free face-to-face advice and support.
In 2013, the Trust funded 15 Energy Debt Advice Centres, with services delivered alongside key partners such as Citizens Advice and British Gas’ charity partner, Shelter. The centres play an important role helping maximise support available between these organisations by making referrals accordingly, so that the best possible advice is available on specific issues whether it’s homelessness or billing. The centres also provide specialist assistance to people making an application for a grant which will enable them to pay their bills or overcome bad debt. In 2013 the Trust provided 11,771 grants totalling £7.3m and supported 8,324 of our customers. The network also enables us to fulfil our mandatory obligations by referring eligible people to, for example, the UK Government’s energy efficiency scheme, the Energy Company Obligation.
The Trust additionally funds training programmes for Energy Advisors delivered by National Energy Action (NEA). These programmes include a City and Guilds course on energy awareness to help improve the energy efficiency guidance from advisors, a Fuel Debt Advice in the Community programme as well as continuous mentoring and support for those who have participated in the training.
To ensure we maximise the support available to customers, in 2013 we focussed on raising awareness about the support available through the Trust at local community outreach events, as well as running national and regional media campaigns.
The British Gas Energy Trust remains committed to delivering grants and advice to individuals and families experiencing poverty and hardship, in order to support tackling fuel poverty.
After losing her job, ‘Ms Jones’ was dependent on benefits and struggled to pay her bills, meaning she had to cut back on many things, including food. Despite trying to maintain payment arrangements for her energy, she eventually fell into substantial arrears. Ms Jones opted to have a prepayment meter fitted to help her repay her electricity debt while continuing her supply.
Ms Jones got in touch with British Gas’ Debt Customer Care Team to see if we could help. We were able to negotiate an affordable payment plan for her future gas consumption while the British Gas Energy Trust awarded £3,281 to clear her fuel arrears.
Following our support, Ms Jones is now better able to manage her finances and keep her home warm, rather than worrying about the affordability of her arrears payments.