May 26, 2016

EnergyAustralia is the first energy company to join a new initiative launched today, which aims to help industries improve delivery of affordable financial services for disadvantaged sectors of our community. EnergyAustralia’s Head of Customer Experience Operations David Ackland said becoming part of Good Shepherd Microfinance’s Financial Inclusion Action Plan [FIAP] ‘made absolute sense’.

“Financial vulnerability is one of the big challenges facing the energy industry. The profile of hardship customers is changing. Last year Kildonan Uniting Care noted 30 per cent of its clients seeking support have jobs and a mortgage; five years ago that was only 5 per cent,” Mr Ackland said.

“Most of our 15,000 customers participating in our EnergyAssist [vulnerability] program, which assigns each customer with a case manager who creates a manageable payment plan for them, desperately want to pay their bills, but are struggling to do so.

“As the first energy company to sign up to FIAP, we’re committed to finding better ways to help our customers understand what financial help is out there for them to make sure they’re managing their budget the best way they can.”

EnergyAustralia is one of 11 ‘trailblazers’ signed up to FIAP, joined by several banks, government bodies, academic institutions and non-profit organisations.

Mr Ackland said a national approach to improving the financial circumstances of an increasing number of Australians falling below the poverty line, is vital.

“EnergyAustralia can’t solve this issue on its own, so we’re excited to help launch this plan,” he said.

“If we can be clear on what we – industry and the community – need to achieve we can work towards it. That knowledge is critical because it helps our people to better understand how and why some of our customers are financially excluded.

“In particular, we can pay special attention to groups of customers who are over-represented in financial exclusion (such as women, refugees, sufferers of family violence). When we agree who needs help and what a good outcome looks like, delivering that assistance becomes possible.”

At a launch event in Sydney today, Mr Ackland will be part of a panel with other FIAP ‘trailblazers’ to discuss how they can work together as part of the program.

FIAP aims to bring together the growing community of FIAP trailblazers, raise awareness of FIAPs and the society-wide benefits of financial inclusion.