Research guide could boost understanding of pandemic impact on people living in vulnerable situations

Posted on: 01/06/2021

The guide, Engaging with customers in vulnerable situations: a research guide, builds on several years of research carried out by gas network Wales & West Utilities with Mindset Research to examine the needs and circumstances of customers living in vulnerable situations.

As communities recover from the pandemic, it is increasingly important that businesses understand its impact on their customers and the communities relying on them. Wales & West Utilities’ research programme has identified that you can’t treat people in vulnerable situations as a sub-set of all customers, as the usual tried and tested methodologies that work well for the general public cannot be just ‘made to fit’ for this audience -  the resulting insights lack depth and actionability.

You can watch the Webinar of the report launch here and below.

Now, more than ever, it’s essential that businesses reflect the views of the communities that rely on them.

Since 2018, we’ve spoken to around 25,000 customers to enable us to prepare and write our business plan for 2021-2026 that is now delivering what they told us they want and need – and supporting people most in need is a key part of that.

This guide resulted from a research project that helped us engage with, and understand the views of, some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, informed by one to one in-depth customer interviews and mini-focus groups with care professionals. This now means that over the next five years we’re doubling our vulnerability support  – investing over a million pounds a year, while we are committed to increase our number of Priority Service Register sign-ups by 200 per cent.

We hope our research guide offers some insight and support for others to help shape services for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Sarah Hopkins, Wales & West Utilities People & Engagement Director

Wales & West Utilities 2021-2026 Business Plan sets out how the company is delivering the services that people across Wales and south west England rely on now and for the future. It outlines the company’s ambitious plans for this regulatory gas network price control – RIIO-GD2, that started in April and runs until the end of March 2026. You can find out more at wwutilities.co.uk/yourplan.

We believe that our joint approach to this project has been innovative and learning along the way through each phase of engagement has meant we have engaged in a meaningful way with a wide cross-section of individuals in vulnerable situations, as well as those who care for them.

Research methodology, that looks at people in vulnerable situations as a specific group of all customers and using the same research methods, will not provide the most accurate or actionable feedback. We hope that this guide on taking a more bespoke approach will help organisations in the energy sectors and others tailor their services for the communities they serve.

Martin Olver, Mindset Research Managing Director

Wales & West Utilities is the company that look after the pipes that keep the gas flowing to heat the homes and power businesses of 7.5m people across Wales and south west England. They operate the gas emergency service, connect new homes and businesses, and upgrade the gas network so it’s safe today and fit for the future.

The company is also committed to playing its part in getting to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. 30 power stations connected to its network support renewables like wind and solar power while 19 green gas sites inject enough decarbonised green gas to power 130,000 homes, Additionally, company’s network supplies bus garages in three locations across the south west of England, fuelling CNG buses that improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions from public transport.