Most of us would not be able to count our service providers on one hand. To have shelter, power, water and access to telecommunications and transport means we have accounts with financial institutions, councils or landlords, energy and water companies, telcos and likely road authorities and toll providers. So what happens when you can’t afford to pay for these services that are fundamental to a basic standard of living? You want to pay, but you simply can’t. All essential service providers have programs to support people experiencing vulnerability. Getting access to these programs however, currently requires individual contact with each provider. This can be overwhelming for individuals and difficult to navigate.
TCP estimates that based on current statistics there are 12% of the population who are eligible for but not accessing the support offered by corporate hardship programs. This could be because of the emotional strain involved in retelling a story repeatedly to gain access, lack of awareness or simply just not knowing where to go. In order to improve outcomes for individuals experiencing vulnerability, we need to make it easier to find and connect into hardship programs across industries and sectors.
What is the opportunity?
Our partners understand that across industries it is likely we share customers. So if a water customer is having difficulty paying their bill, it is likely that they are also struggling to pay their energy bill. Two of our partners, Yarra Valley Water and Energy Australia recognised the opportunity to simplify access for these mutual customers and are currently piloting a cross referral program. This program enables mutual customers to access two hardship support programs off the back of one contact, making it easier to connect. The customer only need tell their story once.
Not only has this pilot been beneficial in improving awareness and access, there has also been the opportunity for the two organisations to partner in creating sustainable solutions for customers. An example being the supply of a new hot water system to a vulnerable customer who had been having cold showers for an extended period of time. A great example of how when we work together, we can get better outcomes.
We’re reviewing results of the pilot and continuing to evolve the model. Many of our other partners are keen to be involved so we’re looking to broaden the organisations who are participating. We’re looking to release a report and recommended model for cross referring in mid 2019.