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Closing the gap: How to improve customer support in essential services

30 August 2023

Closing the gap [ 2.8 mb]

Britain faces its largest cost of living crisis in decades. So far 2023 has been the busiest year ever for Citizens Advice. Many people have already cut back their household spending to the bare minimum, while the cost of other essentials has risen sharply due to rapid inflation. As a result, a growing number of people are living on empty. Over 50% of people Citizens Advice help with debt advice are now in negative budgets, meaning they have more essential spending going out than they have income coming in. At this time, essential service providers including energy, water, telecoms, and financial companies need to identify and support their customers who are in need of further support.

In 2020 we published a report on how the current systems to identify and offer support to people aren't meeting people's needs. Existing systems are too complex, which means people are missing out on support. We also outlined how to improve consumer support in essential markets, and the need for a cross-sector approach. Since then there have been many discussions and some piecemeal changes, but we still need to see more government leadership to develop a solution that can be used by providers across all essential service sectors.

This report provides an update to our earlier report and outlines:

      ●         How the current approach is designed and why it doesn’t work for people in vulnerable circumstances

      ●         What a better system would look like and what initiatives have developed to improve support for people

      ●         What needs to happen next to further improve support for people

      ●         We will follow this report with the next steps needed to enable identification of those most in need and who cannot be identified through existing data matching schemes