The Victorian Government is rolling out a team of financial counsellors and community workers in partnership with community organisations to give targeted advice and support to Victorians who need help with their energy bills.
Member for Narre Warren South Gary Maas MP said the $3.7 million support package would help thousands of Victorian households struggling to pay their energy bills.
Debt to energy companies is one of the top three most common sources of financial difficulty raised with financial counsellors and, with many Victorians seeing high bills this winter, it’s vital that support can be accessed.
The suite of programs involves webinars delivered by the Consumer Policy Research Centre and a tailored Energy Assistance and Brokerage Program to help people get the best value energy deal, run by a consortium which includes the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Australian Energy Foundation and Uniting Vic.
The programs are being delivered online and over-the-phone to ensure that Victorians can access this support while stay at home measures are in place.
We want to make sure all Victorians can access this support. That’s why financial counselling is available in a range of languages including Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi and Vietnamese. This support is available by calling 1800 830 029, while live webinars to help households manage their energy costs can be accessed at energyinfohub.org.au
The launch coincides with the Government endorsing new support measures developed by the Essential Services Commission to strengthen protections for residential energy customers and small businesses impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
These include requiring energy retailers to provide reasonable assistance to small businesses experiencing financial stress, conducting tariff checks for residential customers receiving payment assistance, and helping eligible customers complete Utility Relief Grant applications over the phone.
Data from the Essential Services Commission shows that each week in July, around 9,000 households called their energy company seeking assistance with managing their bills.
The new measures come as the Victorian Government released a new advertising campaign, encouraging customers doing it tough to reach out to their energy company. The campaign will be translated into 20 languages and ensure Victorians know their rights.
Under our Government’s nation-leading Payment Difficulty Framework, energy companies must assist any household that engages with them, preventing them from being disconnected.