The Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (HUGS) Service Centre assists clients to maintain connection to essential utility services in situations where they are in financial hardship and unable to meet their immediate financial obligations to a utility provider. HUGS Service Centres are based in Armadale, Midland and Bunbury and are funded by the West Australian Government.
What Is HUGS?
The Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (HUGS) assists Western Australian utility customers who are in financial hardship and are unable to pay their utility bills. The purpose of HUGS is to assist customers in financial hardship with their connection to essential services.
A key principle of HUGS is that customers and utility providers share responsibility for managing situations of initial payment difficulty and financial hardship. They must work together to develop manageable payment arrangements, which will provide the greatest assistance to customers, with the expressed purpose of avoiding disconnection and preventing debt escalation.
Customers may be eligible for financial assistance through HUGS where payment arrangements and other hardship strategies have been exhausted. Financial assistance through HUGS will be targeted towards Western Australians most in need.
Read more here.
What To Expect When Connecting To The HSC
Financial Support Workers take calls from all over WA.
HUGS Financial Support Workers work with utilities customers to:
- Assess their financial circumstances and capacity to meet utility debt repayment, including the development of a budget
- Undertake assessments of customers’ eligibility to access other utility entitlements
- Assess whether a HUGS payment is required to avoid a disconnection or restriction of a utility service
- Support the development of manageable and realistic payment plans which include an assessment of the individual’s ability to meet repayments, ongoing utility costs and other financial obligations
Help Going Forward:
As well as assessing a person’s eligibility to receive the HUGS grant, Financial Support Workers also develop an understanding of people’s situation and can refer to other support services by providing:
- Information and support on how to better manage energy and/or water consumption including referrals to a HSC Energy Coach
- Referrals, including facilitated referrals to financial counsellors
- Information on and referrals to community education opportunities and improving financial wellbeing
- Information on and referrals to other community services for co-occurring issues
People can also access energy coaching from the HSC. Energy Coaches provide an outreach service supporting clients and communities to better understand and manage energy and water usage.
The Energy Coach can:
- Conduct residential energy audits
- Provide referrals
- Deliver education to individuals and groups
For some energy saving tips, click here.
If you are behind on your utility bills, please contact your energy supplier directly. They may then refer you to the HUGS Service Centre to assess your eligibility for the scheme. Contact details for WA utilities suppliers can be found here.