The McGowan Government in Western Australia is leading a campaign and implementing changes to the customer codes for Western Australian utility service providers from 2020 to increase protection for customers experiencing family and domestic violence.
Under these proposed changes, codes regulating electricity, gas and water service providers will be updated to consider the needs of people experiencing family and domestic violence.
Family and domestic violence would be recognised as a potential cause of payment difficulty, and energy and water retailers would be required to have a family violence policy which could include:
- Staff training to raise awareness of the impacts of family and domestic violence
- Professional development for staff to learn how to best assist customers experiencing family and domestic violence
- Improved systems for identifying vulnerable customers and protecting confidential customer information
- Training for staff to direct customers affected by family and domestic violence to appropriate pathways for support
- A requirement for contractors to uphold the same policies as utility providers to ensure a consistent approach across all operations
Western Australia’s third annual ’16 Days in WA’ campaign to raise awareness of family and domestic violence began on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and continues until December 10, Human Rights Day.
According to Western Australia’s Water Minister, Dave Kelly, while licensed water service providers are required to have policies recognising family and domestic violence as a cause of financial hardship, often the problems faced by water customers in these circumstances go beyond this.
“The aim of these proposed changes is to ensure that our service providers are doing everything they can to protect the safety and wellbeing of customers and staff,” Mr Kelly said.
“This goes beyond simply offering payment plans to customers in need and can include assisting customers affected by family and domestic violence in finding appropriate avenues for support.
“It’s important the entire community works together to stop violence against women and children.”
Western Australia’s Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister, Simone McGurk, said that stopping the scourge of family and domestic violence, and reducing its impact on the community are key priorities for the McGowan Government.
“We introduced the ’16 Days in WA’ campaign to get people thinking about what they can do to raise awareness; increase positive action; and highlight organisations, agencies, communities and individuals working to end violence against women,” Ms McGurk said.
“This year, the energy and water sectors have identified ways they can make changes to ensure customers experiencing family and domestic violence are better protected.
“I encourage everyone in WA to follow their lead and ask themselves what they can do to stop violence against women in our state.”