5 minute read

My experience at the CEO Sleepout

The saying goes, ‘you can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.’ Last week I was able to take that walk – albeit a very small one – in the shoes of the thousands of Melbournians who experience poverty and homelessness every night during the Vinnies CEO Sleepout.

Melissa Reynolds
Melissa Reynolds
29 June 2018

As the temperatures dropped as low as six degrees overnight, and with only a cardboard box to sleep on, I heard the home truths of homelessness and poverty from an individual, personally experiencing poverty and from the people on the front line – the amazing volunteers from St Vinnies.

And their stories left me truly humbled.

Since then, I’ve been reflecting on my experience and thinking about the importance of what we do as an organisation especially with our customers who are facing hardship.

Energy is fundamental to the everyday lives of Australians and we understand the importance in providing secure and affordable energy to households and businesses. Each and every household is different, and the circumstances of those households can change over time. From listening to stories during the sleepout, it reminded me of how lives can change in a moment – and how important it is not to take things for granted.

As a company, we have worked hard to ensure we support customers through periods of financial hardship. This includes simple and accessible products, easy to understand bills, flexible payment options and digital resources like Energy Insights to help understand consumption patterns and energy spend.

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Some of these include:

  • AGL’s hardship program Staying Connected which offers tailored payment plans, access to financial counselling, energy efficiency advice and information on concessions and other government support.
  • A Fairer Way, a program to assist low-income and vulnerable customers, removing late fees, introducing non-conditional discounts, shifting customers on standing offers to better deals and a 15% automatic discount of electricity charges for Victorian customers
  • Here to help – a digital solution making it easier for vulnerable customers and customers experiencing short term financial difficulties to check eligibility and access energy concessions, rebates and grants
  • AGL Essentials, a simple low and fixed rate energy plan
  • Development of a Social and Economic Inclusion policy which will make commitments about our long-term approach to supporting customers in financial hardship

I don’t necessarily have the answers today, but an experience like the CEO Sleepout compels us all to think about how we serve these customers – compassionately and with the right resources at a time when they most need it.

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