During the Kidney Care UK Cost of Living webinar we talked about the impact that the crisis is having on the kidney community, and what we as a charity are doing to help.
We also talked in-depth about the support that is available, and were joined by speakers from Citizens Advice, Auriga Services and Anglian Water, who also discussed the help and services they provide.
Laura Docherty from Citizens Advice North Yorkshire is the head of energy and social welfare access.
Laura reminded us that Citizens Advice is also a charity and that they give holistic advice and to improve their clients' situations. Laura told us that her team are all about empowering clients to know their rights and their choices and to help them decide on their own next steps, assisting them where that might be needed.
During the cost of living crisis, the energy team has a particular focus on lifting people out of fuel poverty. So, if someone comes to the charity for a fuel voucher or for financial support with their bills, they will look at that person’s whole situation to see how they might be able to help them, whether that's with a PIP claim and checking their benefit entitlement checking for eligible grants that they might be able to get.
They also refer clients to specialist teams that they have in North Yorkshire including family discrimination, employment welfare benefits debt and Money Advice. It's become increasingly important to be looking at benefit entitlement at the moment.
In her presentation Laura also talked about people who are dependent on medical equipment that needs an energy supply. It is not safe or practical to be on a prepayment meter in these situations. There are specific rules for moving from a prepayment to a credit meter. Similarly here are the rules on when you can stop your supplier forcibly moving you to a prepayment meter.
Mark Smith from Auriga Services has 22 years’ experience in money and welfare benefits advice.
Auriga is a public benefit entity owned by seven Trent waters Charitable Trust Fund. They began working in 2016 with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the kidney patients there, and that really opened their eyes to the difficulties that kidney patients face on a daily basis.
Since 2017 Auriga have been working in partnership with Kidney Care UK and have gained a strong understanding of the challenges that kidney patients face. This partnership is transformational to the patients that are being supported and through our partnership we've been able to realise more than £2 million of previously unclaimed benefits for the kidney community.
There are a lot of myths around welfare benefits and it's common for people to assume they aren’t entitled to them, maybe because they are working part time or they own their own home.
The Kidney Care UK-Auriga partnership has been able to identify unclaimed benefits for patients; Auriga help fill the forms in so that patients can realise the income. "When you’re faced with a 40-page form or a telephone interview that you are quite nervous about, we give patients that support that can help them navigate the system, because it is an entitlement at the end of the day, and patients are entitled to the support and so the partnership we've built has been transformational," explained Mark.
Beth from Anglian Water was our other guest speaker. Beth’s role as Customer Services Partnership Manager is to make sure that Anglian Water are providing an inclusive and accessible service to all the customers that they serve and that customers know about the support services available to them.
There are approximately 870,000 people that are living with CKD in the Anglian Water region, including almost 10,000 patients who have been transplanted or are on dialysis. Anglian Water want to know if any of their customers are living with CKD because having visibility of their customers’ needs means that they can offer them additional support, for example through the Priority Services Register, which means they can tailor the services they provide to better serve customer needs. For example, if a customer is on home dialysis and there's an interruption to their water supply they will proactively let them know.
"Through Anglian Water’s partnership with Kidney Care UK we're hoping to increase awareness of support available for people living with CKD. We want to encourage more of Anglian Water’s customers living with the condition, to sign up to the Priority Services Register and we promote financial assistance to customers who may be struggling to pay," Beth said.
Anglian Water have created a bespoke partnership phone line for their customers who are living with CKD (0800 232 1962). When customers call this number, they get straight through to the Priority Services team, who have been trained by Kidney Care UK on the impact that CKD can have. Beth explained that Anglian Water are proud to be the first utility company partnering with Kidney Care UK and that they hope to pave the way for more utility companies to follow suit, doing the right thing to support customers living with chronic kidney disease.
Cost of living: top tips and advice from our panellists
Laura, Citizens Advice
Check your benefit entitlements.
Claiming benefits can help you to access so much. Quite often, income-related ESA or Universal Credit is your gateway to more help. There are also things like warm discount and this is going to entitle you to social tariffs, not just on water, and other things but a broadband and telephone. For example, people don't know that if they claim Universal Credit you might be able to get your internet for as cheap as 15 pounds. If anyone does one thing after this webinar, please go and check your benefit entitlement because it's not just the money you get in your pocket. It’s everything else that it opens the door to.
Beth, Anglian Water
If you're struggling, please reach out to us if we are your water provider, or reach out to your own supplier if you are not an Anglian Water customer.
We can help: you get added to the Priority Services Register and we will check to see if you're entitled to any of our discounted tariffs. We also have something called an extra care assessment which we can do with you, it will take no longer than 10-15 minutes if you do it on the phone, or you can access it online on our website. We will go through your water account and make sure that you're benefitting from all of the support we can provide you with. We will also then see if we can enhance your overall financial situation, signposting any unclaimed benefits, looking at any additional practical and support services available. I would also say that not all utility companies are bad, and I know that's probably quite a difficult message to deliver at the moment when you're looking at some of the headlines, but just remember that many of us are here to help. And if you're finding it difficult if you're struggling please reach out and talk to us because there's always something that we can do to help you.
Mark, Auriga Services
Most people don’t realise that they are eligible for certain benefits – it is always worth looking into non-means tested benefits.
With non-means tested benefits it doesn't matter what your income is, or if you own your own home, or got a little bit of savings, the non-means tested benefits are all about the difficulties you have in daily life. That might be around self-care, mobility and getting around, preparing a meal. I think there's a bit of a misconception that because maybe have got a little bit of savings you won't qualify for these benefits. So many kidney patients I've gone to see in units hadn't claimed independence payments because they didn't think they were entitled to it because their partner worked, and we've got them the money, and that income has made such a difference to that to their lives so even if you don't qualify for any means tested benefits, look in to the non-means tested benefits.
Laurie, Kidney Care UK
If you don't know where to start, please get in touch with Kidney Care UK.
If you need support, even trying to navigate what to do first, please do send us an email, write us a letter, contact us on social media or pick up the phone, because we will be able to support you, whether that's directly in the community or by you talking to one of our team in head office for some practical advice to signpost you in the right direction.
Get the support you need if you're worried about the rising costs of living
The panel also shared examples of people they had supported recently. One kidney patient contacted Anglian Water after being advised to do so by his Kidney Care UK Advocacy Officer and immediately received a 50% discount on his water bills. Find out more about our Anglian Water partnership.
Laura told us about a client she supported who had a good income, she lived with her partner and had four children. Her partner had a health condition and the client reached out to Citizen’s Advice because they had a pre-payment meter and had been disconnected because they were unable to afford to top it up. She contacted Laura’s team for a fuel voucher and was absolutely sure she wouldn’t qualify for any other support. The team at Citizen’s Advice suggested that they just check to see. She was entitled to £14,000 of Universal Credit per year, a truly transformational amount of money. Take a look at Citizen’s Advice energy information.
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