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Wales & West Utilities launches guide to engaging with the most vulnerable

Posted on: 09/11/2020

Gas network Wales & West Utilities and Mindset Research have partnered to launch a guide to engaging with the most vulnerable people in society.

The document, Engaging with customers in vulnerable situations: a research guide, builds on several years of research which has been undertaken by the two organisations and examines the needs and circumstances of customers in vulnerable situations.

It’s launched at a time when, due to the pandemic, it is increasingly important that businesses understand the views of their customers and the communities that rely on them. Research undertaken by the gas pipeline and emergency service has found that by treating the potentially vulnerable as a sub-set of all customers with tried and tested methodologies that work well for the public in general just ‘made to fit’ for this audience, the resulting insights lack depth and actionability.

Now, more than ever, it’s essential that businesses reflect the views of the communities that rely on them.

Over the last three years we’ve spoken to over 21,000 customers to enable us to prepare and write a RIIO2 business plan that delivers what they want and need – and supporting those most in need is a key part of that.

This guide started as a research project to help us engage with, and understand the views of, the most vulnerable in our communities. It’s been informed by one on one, in-depth customer sessions and mini-focus groups with care professionals, which now means that between 2021-2026 we’ll double our support for the vulnerable – investing £750,000 a year, while committing to increase our number of Priority Service Register sign-ups by 200 per cent.

We hope this document offers some insight and support for other research projects that will shape services for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Sarah Hopkins, Wales & West Utilities People & Engagement Director

Wales & West Utilities 2021-2026 Business Plan sets out how the company is going to deliver the services that people across Wales and south west England rely on in the future. It outlines the company’s ambitious plans for the next regulatory gas network price control – RIIO-GD2, effective from April 2021-2026. You can find out more at wwutilities.co.uk/yourplan.

We believe that our joint approach to this project has been innovative and learning along the way through each phase of engagement has meant we have engaged in a meaningful way with a wide cross-section of individuals in vulnerable situations, as well as those who care for them.

Research methodology, that looks at people in vulnerable situations as a specific group of all customers and using the same research methods, will not provide the most accurate or actionable feedback. We hope that this guide on taking a more bespoke approach will help organisations in the energy sectors and others tailor their services for the communities they serve.

Martin Olver, Mindset Research Managing Director

Wales & West Utilities is the company that look after the pipes that keep the gas flowing to heat the homes and power businesses of 7.5m people across Wales and south west England. They operate the gas emergency service, connect new homes and businesses, and upgrade the gas network so it’s safe today and fit for the future.

The company is also committed to playing its part in getting to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. 30 power stations connected to its network support renewables like wind and solar power while 19 green gas sites inject enough decarbonised green gas to power 130,000 homes, Additionally, company’s network supplies bus garages in three locations across the south west of England, fuelling CNG buses that improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions from public transport.