More and more sectors are realising that they can’t overcome life’s major challenges without meaningfully involving the people affected. Whether it’s defining the problem, coming up with solutions or implementing them effectively; “lived experience” is needed at all stages.
Repowering’s Community Support Services team helps local residents who are struggling to pay their energy bills. With funding from Trust for London, we are now able to empower some of them to become agents for social change through training, employment, mentoring and opportunities to shape our activities, like paid focus groups.
A key area of influence is in the development of effective policies to alleviate fuel poverty and protect vulnerable energy customers, both within Lambeth and at a national level. In this blog, our Community Champion, Fran, shares her story of moving from a Repowering energy advice client to national policy influencer:
“Repowering has just responded to the final stages of an Ofgem consultation: Self-disconnection and self-rationing final proposals – statutory consultation. Ofgem’s proposals should bring into legislation some groundbreaking new rights and protections for prepayment meter customers and those who struggle to heat their homes.
It’s usual for consumer groups and organisations to include case studies of service users / clients when they campaign, conduct policy research, and respond to regulatory consultations. But I think it’s probably less usual for service users to hands-on draft consultations (which is what Repowering made happen here).
I’m still feeling chuffed to have the opportunity to contribute to a process which shapes national policy.
It’s an unusual story, but should it be? Repowering already gives voice to energy advice clients by holding focus groups. It might take a special kind of geek (me) to actually enjoy reading 80 page documents about the problematic aspects of pre-payment…but I think Repowering will certainly look at ways and means of getting more clients meaningfully involved in future policy work.
Here are a few milestones in a familiar and unfamiliar story.
I came to Repowering London in November 2018, after being referred by Centre 70. I had long disputed a substantial debt to my electricity supplier, and had, over a period of seven years, tried in vain to resolve things. I had had a reasonably successful micro business for 12 years. It was successful until it wasn’t. I had reluctantly agreed to pay up to £45 a month on top of consumption to clear the disputed debt. I paid this until I couldn’t. So with my career and business in freefall, trying to negotiate the hostile environment of Universal Credit, and deal with multiple other creditors, I came to Repowering London seeking urgent advice on dealing with my electricity supplier, at crisis point. Many aspects of my story are familiar to other clients that we see at Repowering.
Upsetting the narrative….
Just over a year later (after being invited to attend a focus group) I started working with Repowering, as a Community Champion. Aside from community engagement activities for innovation trials, I developed a very geeky, growing interest in Citizens Advice Energy Policy Research, and Ofgem’s policy research and consultations on customer vulnerability. I fell down some pretty niche rabbit holes.
And why not?
Service users are experts by experience. Who better to have a voice in shaping the policies around essential services that profoundly affect us?
Expert by experience to novice policy shaper….
The energy sector regulates via consultation processes. The journey from consultation stages to enforceable regulation is comparatively swift and straightforward. The regulator, Ofgem, consults with a variety of stakeholders including energy suppliers, consumer, and campaigning organisations. So an organisation, such as Repowering, that provides the opportunity for service users to contribute to an Ofgem consultation response drives a direct line from service beneficiary to policy influencer.
We’ll cover more detail about the consultation in another post later this month. In the meantime, you can check Repowering’s response here.”