In the home care sector, people are already talking about turning the heating down, or off, and forgoing hot meals. Home care clients are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and they are often those who most need to keep warm.
Risk of dying
Some are – literally – at risk of dying of cold. The number of deaths associated with cold homes is now estimated at around 10,000 a year.
The NHS Confederation wrote to ministers in August warning that high energy bills are set to create a public health emergency. It’s forecast that 50% of UK households will be in fuel poverty from October and 55% from January.
What can franchise leaders do?
First, don’t imagine it cannot affect your franchise. It will
Faced with soaring bills many people become rabbits caught in the headlights, terrified to move. As leaders, we cannot be like this.
Make yourself aware of individual customers’ rights. Energy and water suppliers have a duty to offer support, such as affordable repayment plans, to people struggling with bills or debt. Knowing this can take the terror out of receiving bills.
Find out where your business, franchisees, staff, and customers can get help. Include a list of websites and telephone numbers for sources of advice, such as Citizens Advice, in your newsletters to franchisees, staff and clients.
Find out where your local ‘warm banks’ are – venues offering a warm place to go. Many councils are set to introduce them. Let staff know where the nearest one is, so they can tell anyone who needs a warm place to go. Display a sign indicating the location of the nearest warm bank.
Don’t be patronising
Avoid telling people how to manage their money. We’ve all seen the derision that wealthy politicians get when they dish out this kind of ‘advice’.
Help for your business
The Government announced the Energy Bill Relief Scheme in September, which means suppliers will be reducing bills for almost all businesses – but it’s not easy to see how much help individual businesses will get.
Business groups, local chambers of commerce and networking groups may be useful ways to find out what’s happening, what other companies are doing, and ways to campaign for more support.
Make it a chance to get closer to the local community
Franchisees are usually part of their local community. The energy crisis is a way for them to strengthen local ties. They know the best ways to do this – franchise leaders should be open to their ideas.
Early in the pandemic a franchisee said to me: “We should all try to do something for our communities. People will remember the organisations that did, and they will reap the benefits later.” It’s true for the energy crisis too.