‘It’s a lifeline’: A Long-Term Approach to Improving Energy Support Programs for Households Facing Vulnerability.


November 6, 2023

Many homes in Australia provide little thermal comfort and these homes are mostly occupied by people who are least able to improve them, such as renters and low-income homeowners. Energy hardship for these individuals and families manifests in a variety of ways including difficulty paying bills, energy rationing, and negative effects on health and other life areas.

Energy Efficiency Services, such as that offered by Uniting Vic.Tas, work with individuals and families on low-incomes and those experiencing energy hardship to support households to better understand and manage their energy use and costs. They work with people to modify energy use behaviour as well as maximise access to financial supports such as rebates, concessions, retrofits and appliance replacement schemes.

This research project sought to understand the benefits and gaps of the Uniting Energy Support Service to determine ‘what works’ and what actions are needed to address the drivers and effects of energy hardship.

The research found that Uniting Energy Efficiency Service was highly valued by the majority of households and produced a range of positive energy, financial, health and wellbeing outcomes for individuals and families.

Yet, energy hardship persisted due to a range of complex ‘ecosystem’ factors beyond the control of households. Experiences of recurrent or ongoing poverty and poor-quality housing, intersected with factors such as negative landlord and energy retailer behaviour, which in turn exacerbated individual and familial factors, including poor health, disability, family circumstances and insecure employment.

The research also found that many households were already using less than the Australian average energy use, including a third of Victorian households, meaning that under-use rather than over-use is the substantive issue for many households. Some households were ‘rationing’ their energy use meaning they would go without necessary energy use (such as heating or cooking) to try and manage their bills.

Due to the value and positive impact evidenced by this study, Uniting Energy Efficiency Service can be seen both as a ‘front door’ and navigation partner to a wide range of further supports, and as an advocate and influencer for householders across the ecosystem. To achieve this, the service may need to expand its reach to and follow up with households.

It is essential that energy support goes in hand with broader support for people to deal with tenancy matters, access to quality housing, access to appropriate income support, and psychosocial and health support, among others. Addressing one set of factors influencing energy hardship without connection to the others cannot fully remedy energy hardship,

Read the summary report.

Read the full report.


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