taking the heat out of energy bills for people in public housing

Posted on 3rd May 2022

With winter on its way, the high cost of heating is a concern for many Victorians, but especially for people living on low incomes. 

A collaboration between cohealth and the State-funded Energy Info Hub is helping public housing residents to reduce their energy bills and improve their financial literacy. 

Throughout March and April, more than 100 public housing residents at the Collingwood and Fitzroy high-rise were helped to access more affordable energy plans thanks to a visit from the state-funded Energy Info Hub, which is also supported by the Consumer Policy Research Centre. 

The Energy Info Hub consultants spent four weeks in total siting with residents to help them access a range of cost saving measures on their utilities. The appointments involved checking energy bills, ensuring all concession discounts were being applied and researching the best plan for each resident. 

Key to the success of the program was the pre-engagement undertaken by cohealth with residents, so that they knew that the Energy Info Hub consultants were coming and could book an appointment slot. 

“cohealth Health Concierges actively promoted the Energy Info Hub to residents during their daily conversations in the foyer of the towers to make sure we had maximum take-up of the appointments available,” said Joanne Le, a cohealth Health Concierge who at Fitzroy high-rise estate. 

 “We also delivered flyers in different languages including English, Chinese and Vietnamese, to residents’ mailboxes, and helped arrange interpreters for those residents that needed them.” 

During the course of the program, we were consistently overbooked and unfortunately had to place residents on a waiting list,” said Joanne. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic cohealth’s High Risk Accommodation Response program has been working onsite at high-rise estates across the north and west of Melbourne to help people improve their health and wellbeing, respond to health and social support needs, help people access vaccinations, distribute RATs and provide translated health info. 

“One of the ongoing issues that people raise with us is the stress of high utility bills. Financial hardship and the high cost of living are key challenges for people living in public housing, so having the Energy Info Hub come onsite was terrific,” said Alanta Colley, cohealth’s LGA Lead Fitzroy and Collingwood – HRAR team. 

Through the Collingwood outreach alone, the Energy Info Hub achieved the following outcomes: 

  • Helped 33 people move to a cheaper energy plan with their existing energy company, saving them a total of $4,470 (or $117/year on average)
  • Supported 9 households, with a combined energy debt of $8,940, to complete applications for the Utility Relief Grant to help pay these debts
  • Identified 9 households that we not receiving their energy concessions and contacted energy companies to get this 17.5% saving applied to their bills

The program demonstrates how cohealth can work in partnership with other services to address a range of challenges faced by community, and remove some of the barriers that contribute to poor health and wellbeing outcomes. 


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