Regulator takes action to better support Victorians experiencing vulnerability to access essential services
30 August 2023
Supporting Victorians experiencing vulnerability to have equitable access to energy, water, transport and other critical services remains a key focus for the Essential Services Commission amid growing cost-of-living pressures for consumers.
The independent economic regulator has released a progress report on its ‘Getting to fair’ strategy aimed at breaking down the barriers Victorians may face in accessing or engaging with regulated essential services.
Launched in 2021, the three-year strategy is informed by research and consultation with consumers, the community sector, government and regulated businesses. It identifies 33 actions the commission is taking to improve the experience of consumers experiencing vulnerability through facilitating more responsive, inclusive and accessible essential services.
Chairperson Kate Symons says the economic and social impacts experienced by many Victorians as result of the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder that anyone can experience vulnerability at any time.
“The strategy has helped the commission to keep the experiences, needs and expectations of consumers experiencing vulnerability at the centre of its work program and regulatory decisions. At the two-year mark, we have implemented 21 of the 33 actions we committed to undertake,” she said.
With the support of the Assistant Treasurer’s 2022 ministerial statement of expectations, the commission has delivered a number of milestones to date.
These include reviewing the family violence provisions in the water standards and the implementation of the energy payment difficulty framework, updating the water customer service codes to strengthen consumer support and protections, and publishing expert-led resources to support regulated businesses to engage with consumers who may be affected by family violence.
Commissioner Symons says the strategy is the start of the commission’s journey to break down the barriers that block Victorians from accessing regulated essential services.
“In developing the strategy, we learned that people experiencing vulnerability often perceive barriers accessing essential services as insurmountable, cumulative and repeated across multiple sectors,” Commissioner Symons said.
“Supporting these consumers requires a shared pathway with regulated businesses, government, community groups and the wider community, and focused and sustained action to really make a difference. I acknowledge the support and contribution of these stakeholders in this critical shared mission and look forward to further progressing this important work together.”