Government urges people to get supports ahead of tough winter

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, TD.

The government has urged households and businesses to ensure they take advantage of the support measures put in place to help people through a difficult winter.

Alongside partners like the CRU (Commission for Regulation of Utilities), MABS (Money and Budgeting Advice Service), ALONE and SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland), the government is asking people to stay warm this winter and know that help is available if they need it in the weeks and months ahead.

This is the key message of the new winter phase of ‘Reduce your consumption’, announced today at ALONE’s offices in Dublin.

The Reduce Your Use page (www.gov.ie/ReduceYourUse) and hashtag (#ReduceYourUsage) provide guides on existing sources of help, to help people identify the appropriate supports for their needs during the coming winter period.

“Reduce your consumption” is an intergovernmental public information campaign that started in April 2022.

The national campaign will run throughout the heating season and will evolve as needed to meet changing information needs and public concerns.

This new phase of the campaign is based on research that shows most people are concerned about the energy situation, mainly because it is so unknown.

The research also shows that people are looking for clarity on where they can get help and support, and what they can do to make the biggest difference to their energy bills.

As part of the campaign, an information leaflet detailing how to access government aid and tips on how to be more energy conscious will also be distributed to every household in the country.

Environment, Climate and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan, TD, said: “The research we have carried out clearly shows that everyone feels affected by the energy crisis – however, some groups in society are more affected than others – the elderly; low-income people; people with young families, for example.

“The government is fully aware of the difficulties people are facing.

“This new phase of Reduce Your Drinking is all about providing clear information to people about the supports, help and advice available from the government, first, and through specialist groups like MABS or ALONE, for example. .

“We also encourage families and businesses to save money by being efficient with their energy use, but only when it’s safe to do so. It is important that everyone stays warm.

Utilities Regulatory Commission (CRU) – key role in consumer protection in the energy sector

The Commission for the Regulation of Public Utilities (CRU) plays a role in the protection of energy consumers. It defines the code of conduct by which all energy suppliers must treat their customers, in the supplier manuals.

It monitors the market – engages with suppliers and representatives of national support groups.

Additional customer protection measures in place for this winter include extended disconnection moratoriums, extended repayment periods for indebted customers and reduced debt burdens for prepaid customers.

In addition to these protections, the supplier-led Energy Engage code provides peace of mind for household electricity and gas users. It encourages households, in difficulty with their bills, to engage with their suppliers – to manage their debt.

Under the code, suppliers will not disconnect anyone who engages with them and will offer a range of payment options (such as a debt repayment plan for anyone who falls behind).

CRU’s Customer Care team provides a free information service and free dispute resolution service for consumers and electricity/gas customers.

More information on these safeguards is available at: https://www.cru.ie/home/customer-care/energy/.

Aoife MacEvilly, President of CRU, said: “Although this winter is a difficult time with rising energy costs, it is important for all energy customers to know that there is a wide range specific measures in place to protect them. .

“Over the past few months, the CRU has been particularly focused on customers who may find themselves in greater difficulty, including vulnerable customers, customers at risk of indebtedness and prepayment customers in financial difficulty.

“The new enhanced customer protection measures announced in August will provide an additional layer of reassurance to these customers over the coming months. The CRU will continue to work with suppliers, our customer stakeholder group and the department on the implementation of these measures this winter.”

SEAI – advice for families and businesses on how to reduce energy bills, as well as grants for energy-saving improvements

SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) is Ireland’s national authority for sustainable energy. SEAI works with households, businesses, communities and government.

William Walsh, CEO of SEAI, said, “We are working closely with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications to help everyone reduce their energy consumption, now and for good.

“It starts with advising households and businesses on how to lower their energy bills by changing their habits, adopting better practices and often giving them common sense advice on heating and electricity.

“We are also delighted to see the huge interest in our government-funded grants for home energy upgrades, helping homeowners improve the comfort of their homes while reducing their energy bills and harmful CO2 emissions. These programs offer options and solutions for all budgets and levels of ambition.

Financial Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) – offers free, confidential, independent and non-judgmental assistance

MABS is the publicly funded financial advice and budgeting service. For 30 years, he has supported people with financial advice, budgeting and debt issues. The MABS service is free, confidential, independent and non-judgmental.

MABS is available to you if you are struggling with debt (including utility bills) or if you are at risk of debt and need help. You can get unbiased advice from MABS to help you manage your money and take control of your finances. MABS offers support:

Online via their website www.mabs.ie;

By phone via their Helpline 0818-07-2000 (Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.);

Face-to-face through their network of over 60 offices nationwide.

MABS is funded and supported by the Department of Social Welfare through the Citizens Information Board.

Karl Cronin, MABS National Spokesperson, said: “MABS is delighted to be working with the government on this campaign. Electricity and heating costs are priority expenses for every household and should be budgeted accordingly.

“Wherever possible, weekly payments should be made for electricity and heating costs to keep them under control and to prevent arrears from piling up and becoming a problem.

“There are a number of supports available for households struggling to meet these costs. Advice and information on this is available from our MABS helpline and network of MABS offices. shouldn’t be left without light or heating this winter – MABS is here to help.”

ALONE – working on behalf of all older people

ALONE is a national organization that enables seniors to age in place. It works on behalf of all older people and aims to improve physical, emotional and mental well-being.

Anyone worried about their energy costs, finances, health, housing or well-being this winter can call ALONE’s national support and referral line – to access services, advice and information, by calling 0818-222-0248 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, said: “We know from the seniors we work with that many are concerned about their energy costs this winter and have been feeling the impact of rising costs for some time.

“We are delighted to be working with the government on the Reduce Your Consumption campaign to emphasize that older people should not limit their energy consumption in a way that could impact their health this winter.

“Keeping warm and well is not just a matter of comfort, but a matter of health. ALONE staff and volunteers are in place across the country – to offer practical support and coordinate services for and with the elderly in order to meet their energy needs this winter, whether it is support for paying a bill, advice on minimizing your energy expenditure while staying well, putting you in touch with relevant practical aids, or if you are just preoccupied with the coming winter.

For more information on available help and energy saving tips, visit: www.gov.ie/ReduceYourUse and hashtag: #ReduceYourUsage.

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