An on the ground insight from our Education and Training Manager Karl Barratt

February and March have been a busy couple of months for CPRC’s education and engagement team as we’ve been stationed on site at public housing high rise estates across Fitzroy, Collingwood and Carlton delivering more than $260,000 in payments to help tenants with the cost of their energy bills.

Last November, the Victorian Government announced a $250 Power Saving Bonus to help offset some of the increased energy costs borne by households due to the lockdown. Concession card holders (Pensioners, Veterans,  JobSeekers and Youth Allowance, Abstudy or Austudy recipients )  can apply for the payment by visiting the Government’s price comparison website, Victorian Energy Compare (https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au/).  To support access to the payment, CPRC is engaged by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to conduct outreach to help hard to reach groups and those facing digital and language barriers to apply for the payment.

Our research into the experiences of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities showed the high level of disadvantage being faced by CALD households in essential service markets as well as a gap in support programs to assist these communities.  Our program developing and delivering in-language information for the Vietnamese and Arabic speaking communities aimed to bridge the gap in the availability of quality energy information for these two communities. The program developed a suite of tailored resources and delivered online engagement through the COVID lockdown to help the Vietnamese and Arabic speaking communities to understand and act on their rights within the energy market.

It was clear from both our research and on-the-ground experience supporting CALD households that  without dedicated outreach in Melbourne’s diverse public housing high rise estates, many tenants would miss out on the Bonus.

To ensure we could effectively engage with tenants on the estate, we recruited a team of people that speak the most common languages on the estates – Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Somali and Oromo.

Our new multi-lingual team hit the ground running, completing over 1,000 applications in a little over a month.  We’re committed to not only help people to apply for the $250 Bonus but to also help tenants access their energy concessions and switch to the cheaper plans that are being promoted on bills, thanks to a recent Government reform.

While there’s a great diversity among the people we meet, there is one constant – more needs to be done to support everyday households get the most out of the energy market.  We’ve been lucky to collect these insights and will continue to share these to help improve the experiences of all us when it comes to our energy bill.

The $250 Power Saving Bonus is available until January next year (2022). For tips oh how to save on your energy bills visit Energy Info Hub.