Wales & West Utilities sponsors report looking into vulnerability in rural areas

Posted on: 01/02/2022

Wales & West Utilities has sponsored a study which explores the experience of the most vulnerable in rural areas.

The gas emergency and pipeline service for Wales and south west England, alongside other utilities and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra); commissioned the study which was undertaken by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) and Rural England CIC.

The aim of the research was to better understand the lived experience of a range of customers in vulnerable situations who live in rural areas of England, to assess the importance of rurality as a factor compounding vulnerability, and to consider in the light of these factors, whether more or better-designed PSR Priority Service Register (PSR) support could be provided.

In the report, Rural England CIC stated that:

The utilities sector has a duty to support its customers in potentially vulnerable situations, especially where they are temporarily left without electricity, gas or water due to a fault at the home or in the supply network.

Customers who meet the eligibility criteria can sign up to their utility supplier’s or network operator’s PSR, giving them access to extra help and support. Eligibility criteria for the PSR include older age, disability, long term medical conditions and hearing or visual impairment. Currently each utility company maintains its own PSR, although efforts have been made to share information so that PSR lists are complete and coherent, and customers do not need to sign up multiple times with different providers.

Nigel Winnan, Customer & Social Obligations Strategy Manager at Wales & West Utilities, spoke at the launch of the report and said:

At Wales & West Utilities, we have a long track record of supporting communities right across our network, but this report identifies what is different and important for those living in rural communities.

The Priority Services Register (PSR) and the support measures utilities provide to customers are central to the study, which demonstrates their benefits, but emphasises the need to remind customers about the support we can offer. We would urge anyone over 60, who lives with a child under five, or with a chronic health condition to sign up to the PSR. It provides free additional services if there is a power cut or in the unlikely event of an interruption to your gas supply. You can find out more at 

As a company that serves an area with a large rural population, we are pleased to have sponsored this important report and will now work with other utilities to improve the experience for the most vulnerable and seek to bring about positive change, based on its findings

Joining the PSR is free and enables energy companies to provide extra support when needed. All energy companies have a PSR, which you can find on their websites, and if you allow them to share your data you only need sign up once. To join the PSR please click here

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If you smell gas, or suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, call us on 0800 111 999 straight away, and our engineers will be there to help any time of day or night. Before visiting, we'll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We'll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.