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Lockdown makes day to day tasks harder for vulnerable people but smart technology offers simple solutions

22nd December 2020

  • Two thirds of those with a disability, mental health condition, on low income or in a vulnerable circumstance say the pandemic has made their life more difficult
  • 60% say people living with a disability have been forgotten about during the pandemic
  • 70% say having a smart meter made things easier by taking away the worry of having of having to access a traditional gas or electricity meter
  • 21% say their meters are in awkward to reach areas of their home
  • 15% find it difficult to accessing their energy meters due to disability or circumstance

2020 has been a tough year for most people, but new research reveals that smart meters, which are replacing old analogue energy meters in households across Britain, have made life a little bit easier and eased energy concerns for many disabled people and those in vulnerable circumstances.

A survey of 2,000 adults living with a disability, mental health condition, on low income or in a vulnerable category found that certain struggles related to their energy meters go largely unnoticed and have proven much more difficult during the pandemic.

One in ten said they know someone living with a disability who was unable to top up their gas or electricity because they couldn't get to the shop, while 21% said their meters are in awkward to reach areas of their home. In addition, 9% said a carer couldn't come over to access the meter due to the pandemic.

But simply having a smart meter installed by their energy supplier at no extra cost has taken away concerns over accessing hard to reach or awkwardly placed energy meters for 7 in 10 of Britons who have already made the switch. In addition, 61% of those surveyed said that having a smart meter has made managing their energy easier during the pandemic.

Paralympian, TV presenter and author Ade Adepitan MBE, who is campaigning to highlight the benefits of smart meters to vulnerable people, said:

"People living with a disability or in vulnerable circumstances face challenges on a daily basis, and technology is playing an increasing role in knocking down some of those barriers. Smart meters are a pretty simple piece of tech, but the tasks that they completely remove could make life easier for many people across Britain.

"For example, customers with smart prepay meters no longer need to worry about going to the shops to top up, which can be more difficult with limited mobility, sight or hearing loss. With a smart meter you can top up online or via an app and see when credit is running low on the in-home display.

"Meter readings are also automatically sent directly to your energy supplier, and the in-home display shows your energy use in near-real time in pounds and pence, which can help households, especially those with low incomes, to take control of their energy use and have complete visibility over what they are spending.

"Energy may not be exciting, but it's still an essential everyday part of life which no-one should have to struggle with in this day and age."

For millions of people affected by sight loss Energy UK, smart meter display manufacturer, geo, and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have been working with energy suppliers to develop an Accessible In-Home Display (AIHD).

At the push of a button, the device audibly tells the customer how much energy they are using in near-real time, which will in turn help them improve their energy efficiency and could help them reduce spending on gas and electricity.

In the future, energy data from smart meters could also help the NHS to improve care for people living with conditions such as dementia, making it easier for them to live independently in their homes for longer. Energy usage patterns from the smart meter could, with consumer consent and as part of a wider system, be used as a non-intrusive way to understand the daily appliance use of people with illnesses such as dementia, Parkinson's and depression. Irregularities in these patterns, such as using the kettle in the middle of the night, could alert relatives or healthcare workers that the person may need additional support.

Dan Brooke, CEO of Smart Energy GB, added:

"Smart meters help save you time, money and the planet. They are at the heart of the energy revolution that's improving people's lives today and will change Britain for the better, forever.

"Life has enough challenges, particularly right now and particularly for disabled customers and those in vulnerable circumstances, without having to worry about going out in the cold to top up the gas or electric, reading an inaccessible meter or worrying about how much you're spending on heating every day. Smart meters make life easier and cheaper and energy suppliers all over the country are ready and waiting to fit them, so make contact, book an installation and give yourself one thing less to worry about."

To support vulnerable customers, Energy UK has also launched a Vulnerability Commitment, under which energy suppliers have pledged to improve the support they provide to vulnerable households. This includes training front line call centre staff to help better identify and assist vulnerable callers, plus providing a telephone number for customers in financial hardship where appropriate.

Other help available for customers in vulnerable circumstances includes the warm home discount, cold weather payments, fuel direct scheme and annual gas safety checks. Contact your energy supplier to find out more and if you are eligible.

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

Consumer research was conducted by OnePoll, with findings taken from 2000 people who identified as having a disability, mental health condition, be on a low income or over 65 years old.

About smart meters and the rollout

Britain is committed to a cleaner future - one with zero carbon, zero emissions and reduced pollution.

To make this happen, our nation requires a major upgrade to its energy infrastructure, specifically, it requires the creation of a smart energy system. Smart meters, which replace traditional, analogue meters, are the foundation of a more reliable, clean and affordable energy infrastructure, allowing Great Britain to better manage energy use, transition to mass uptake of electric vehicles and to build a greener economy.

There are already over 22 million smart meters installed in homes and microbusinesses across Great Britain. Every household in England, Scotland and Wales can now see their energy use in near real time, receive accurate bills and do their bit for the planet, by requesting a smart meter, at no extra cost, from their energy supplier.

About Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB is the campaign for a smarter Britain. It's our task to help everyone in Great Britain understand smart meters, the national rollout and how to use their new meters to be cleaner and greener with their energy use. Our national campaign is reaching households and microbusinesses in England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit our website smartenergyGB.org

About Energy UK's Vulnerability Commitment

The full range of commitments include:

  • Appointing a Board level 'champion' to take responsibility for meeting the Commitment and improving support to vulnerable households
  • Training front line call centre staff to help better identify vulnerable callers and assist them
  • Providing a freephone number for customers in financial hardship where appropriate
  • Seeking feedback from customers on whether billing communications are understandable and implementing improvements where necessary
  • Regular customer research to ensure approach to supporting vulnerable households is informed and up to date
  • Supporting the development of a best practice guide on using smart technology to identify self-disconnection

Smart Energy GB media contacts

For more information including interview requests, case studies of smart meter users, infographics, photography and video content please contact the Smart Energy GB media team:

Smart Energy GB:

Ben Welling: [email protected]; 0203 019 1063 / 0792 181 9353

Georgia McGrath: [email protected]; 0203 019 1023 / 07715 636 862