Ofgem visits Queens Cross to explore energy challenges for HAs and tenants

Ofgem visits Queens Cross to explore energy challenges for HAs and tenants

Queens Cross Housing Association hosted staff from Ofgem last week as they sought to find out about the work of housing associations in supporting tenants on a range of energy issues.

The visit, facilitated by SFHA, was headed up by the regulator’s interim deputy director for price protection, Chris McDermott, as well as additional staff from Ofgem and SFHA, and provided an opportunity to inform the regulator’s thinking around the future of the energy price cap, impact of standing charges, and approaches to consumer energy debt.

Discussions also addressed some of the barriers to smart meter use as well as the concerns of housing associations around the closedown of the Radio Teleswitch Service.

During a roundtable, staff from Ofgem heard first-hand from Queens Cross’s housing and wellbeing teams and SFHA staff about how the association supports tenants with energy advice and wellbeing services, as well as some of the challenges the organisation faces on issues such as managing voids and engaging with energy suppliers.

Queens Cross’s financial wellbeing manager, Suzanne Wight, welcomed the regulator’s visit and said that it was a good opportunity for Ofgem to hear directly from housing association staff about some of the key challenges around energy issues.

She said: “We welcomed the opportunity to share with Ofgem real examples of the challenges our staff face dealing with energy suppliers, when supporting tenants and managing our voids. We had an open discussion about diverse topics such as delayed meter installations leading to unnecessarily longer voids; affordability and debt; the support available to tenants and the resources we use contacting suppliers.

“None of these issues are unique to Queens Cross, so across the sector it is exacerbating the housing crisis and impacting the lives of many of our tenants.

“We look forward to continued engagement with Ofgem so we can proactively reduce the issues that we’ve identified; ensure our tenants are treated compassionately and support suppliers in their programme of installing smart meters and the RTS switch.”

Ofgem also believed that the visit provided them with detailed insight into the issues housing associations and tenants face around affordability, standing charges, and smart meters.

Interim deputy director for price protection, Chris McDermott, said: “Visits like this are so important to hear first-hand about the issues customers are facing, and we are grateful to the staff at Queens Cross for so openly sharing their perspective and raising the challenges faced by their tenants.

“We share their concerns, which is why we are currently looking at the energy sector as a whole – including affordability, standing charges and the future of the price cap – and we will report on our findings this summer.

“Protecting customers is at the heart of what we do, so we are determined to work together with government, industry and stakeholders to devise a long-term sustainable approach to ensure we have an energy market that is fair and supports customers who are struggling or vulnerable.”

The visit was facilitated by SFHA who said that many of the issues experienced by staff and tenants at Queens Cross were experienced by their members across Scotland.

Director of external affairs, Carolyn Lochhead, said: “I was pleased to join staff from Ofgem to visit our member, Queens Cross Housing Association, and witness first-hand some of the excellent work their wellbeing and housing teams do to support tenants.

“Many of the issues faced by Queens Cross will affect our members across the length and breadth of Scotland, and I’m glad that Ofgem was able to make this visit and find out about the energy issues affecting housing associations and tenants.

“SFHA is working hard to make sure our members’ voices are heard on this and many other matters.”

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