Orkney Housing Association has been an active member of the Digital Champions in Housing project; working to embed digital skills support into our day to day interactions between front-line staff and tenants, helping them to benefit from being online.

One example of this embedded digital support approach working well for us was seen recently with our Energy Officer, Robert Leslie, who used his Digital Champion skills to encourage a tenant to get online to help empower themselves to make a positive change to their financial situation.

What was the situation?

The parent of a tenant with special needs who was living independently got in touch about what appeared to be high electricity usage.  They supplied me with paper bills, which was how they were paying for the electricity.

I reviewed the bills and explained that the usage level appeared to be within what we would expect for the house and is lower than in previous years. The suggestion from the energy suppliers’ graph printed on the account that usage had gone up, but this was based on inaccurate estimates (by almost 4 units a day) when no meter readings had been submitted.

However, I highlighted that the main issue around cost was the unit prices being paid on an open-ended tariff and by paying in arrears on paper bills, which is the most expensive way to pay for electricity. I suggested that there were significant potential savings to be made from switching to a standard meter and then shopping around for a standard tariff and paying by direct debit.

What embedded digital support did you give?

I suggested they look at a price comparison website before deciding.

As an example, I showed the potential to save over £460 over a two-year period (or over £230 a year) based on the current price from another key supplier, with usage staying at the same level as at present. I stressed that this was indicative, but hopefully an incentive to go down the route I had suggested.

As a result, the tenant decided to go on a price comparison website and was shocked at the potential amount they could save on their electricity costs simply by switching supplier, tariff and going paperless. 

What was the outcome for the tenant?

The switch was done by the tenant successfully and although this was completed within the last 2 months, they can start to see savings in the costs. They are now submitting meter readings online every month to ensure their account is kept fully up to date.

They are still getting used to doing everything online, but by providing the extra Digital Champion support, we will ensure their confidence is built and they feel comfortable to manage their electricity account and payments online.