Centrica, along with other representatives across the sector will launch a practical utilities resource next month to support customers and employees with dementia.
The guide will be released on 28 February and highlights challenges for sufferers and obstacles that carers may face when interacting with or managing utilities.
Centrica has come together with other representatives to target vulnerable customers in this manner. The resource covers principles which utility organisations need to work towards to become “dementia friendly”. Currently over 850,000 people with dementia are in the UK and this number is set to rise to over 1 million by 2025, as stated by the Alzheimer’s Society.
It follows on from the prime minister’s challenge on dementia 2020 which set out to make England the world-leader in dementia care and awareness. Representatives from across the utilities sector have joined forces with the Alzheimer’s Society to understand what it means to become a dementia friendly utility company.
Steve Crabb, director of corporate citizenship and consumer vulnerability at Centrica, said:“We’ve been working for the past two years to become dementia friendly. We were one of 10 large businesses asked to model what it means to be dementia friendly by the prime minister’s dementia challenge group in January 2016, and since then we have been steadily improving the support we offer to customers, employees and carers living with dementia.
“As part of this we have been encouraging as many of our people as possible to become Dementia Friends, and to date over 21,000 of our people have done the programme and pledged to fight dementia. We were delighted that our work in this area was recognised in 2017 when we were named Dementia Friendly Large Business of the Year in the annual Alzheimer’s Society awards.”
He added: “We have also been leading a working group which is writing guidance on being dementia friendly for the utility sector as a whole, including telecoms and water as well as energy supply, distribution and services. This guidance will be published at the end of February and we hope it will make a real difference to the support people living with dementia get from their utility firms.”
The energy provider has been working with Alzheimer’s Society for the past two years. In May 2017, Centrica announced it would train a third of its workforce to become “Dementia Friends”, ensuring they can offer bespoke support to customers with the condition.
Centrica has also worked with CLIC Sargent, a leading cancer charity for 16-24-year old’s, since February last year to target families of children suffering from cancer needing financial support for fuel bills. The partnership came about after research revealed families face additional expenditure of £600 a month during a child’s treatment.
Speaking at Utility Week’s Energy Customer Conference 2018, last week in Birmingham, Crabb said the biggest single value is peace of mind. He said: “It’s purely about helping customers who need support.”
Crabb, added: “We’re immensely proud to be working with CLIC Sargent to identify and get help to customers who are affected by childhood cancer. Through working with CLIC Sargent we’ve developed a far better understanding of the huge challenges that these families can face, and how vital it is to support them from the beginning of their fight against cancer. CLIC Sargent are brilliant partners to work with – they are extremely professional, understand how large businesses work and have amazing people.
“The training they provided for the specialist team we set up to support customers affected by childhood cancer has been first class. I hope other utilities will work with them going forward so we can ensure that all families in this situation can stay safe and warm and not have to worry about energy debt.”
Clare Laxton, assistant director of policy and influencing at CLIC Sargent, said: “We hope more energy companies will see this success and take action to support these vulnerable customers.”