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£1million to provide extra care during power cuts

UK Power Networks is donating £1million to charities it has chosen, which it believes will be able to help provide assistance to vulnerable customers, both in preparing for and dealing with a power cut.

From Press releases - 24 July 2014 09:10 AM

UK Power Networks is donating £1million to charities it has chosen, which it believes will be able to help provide assistance to vulnerable customers, both in preparing for and dealing with a power cut. The money will also help provide even better care during future severe weather events, such as the storm experienced in December.

An independent report published today by the regulator Ofgem highlights UK Power Networks’ response to what was an exceptional weather event, restoring electricity supplies to the vast majority of customers in the South East within 24 hours. The company is pleased that the report generally supports its performance but recognises many of its customers had a difficult time over the Christmas period and would like to apologise again for the inconvenience and disruption that they suffered.

The money will be divided equally between its chosen charities, which include the company’s established partner, the British Red Cross, plus the Royal Association for Deaf People, Carers Trust and the Citizens Advice Service.

Each charity will be working closely with the company to increase access to the free help available to vulnerable customers when they lose power. The Royal Association for Deaf People, for example, will help deaf customers understand how electricity reaches them and what to do in a power cut, with videos in sign language and workshops in the community. They will also work with UK Power Networks to help it communicate better with those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The £1million donation comes on top of £2.4 million paid by UK Power Networks to affected customers. In total this is five times more than the minimum it was required to pay.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UK Power Networks, said: “Our £1 million donation does not only help customers affected by the extreme weather but it will also help all our customers in a variety of ways as we strengthen our partnerships with charities.

“Customer service is our priority but there is always room for improvement. Some of the measures we have put in place since December include training extra call-takers, damage assessment teams and customer information officers to restore power supplies quicker and keep customers better informed in future extreme events.

“We are working closely with the industry and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to support the introduction of a single, national, three-digit number for customers to call during power cuts, as well as a number of other initiatives. We also support access to energy suppliers’ data on vulnerable customers to extend our help to those most in need at such difficult times.”

Ofgem’s decision to close their investigation with no further action is also welcomed. The report focused on the company’s response to the storm in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

UK Power Networks’ call centres were well staffed during the emergency but call volumes during the morning of Christmas Eve were unprecedented. The organisation received more than 100,000 calls on Christmas Eve as the storm moved through its regions.

Ninety-one per cent of the company’s overhead linesmen in the South East were available throughout the emergency over the Christmas period. They repaired 1,066 network incidents in six days after one of the most sustained periods of severe weather in the South East in years.

The company recognised what a difficult time it was for those without power during the Christmas holidays and is grateful to its staff who worked hard to restore the power supplies. They also kept customers updated and made special arrangements for vulnerable customers, providing nearly 2,400 hot meals and 178 hotel reservations. UK Power Networks commends the work of its charity partner, the British Red Cross, which visited numerous sites throughout the emergency, bringing practical help to vulnerable customers.