GUEST BLOG: Stepping up efforts to help customers in debt

In this guest blog, CLAIRE SHARP – CUSTOMER DIRECTOR AT NORTHUMBRIAN WATER GROUP – explains how the company is helping its customers to reduce or remove debt.

We recognise that sometimes life’s ups and downs mean that some customers may find themselves in challenging financial situations. As a business that puts customers at the heart of everything we do, it’s important that we are aware of this and that we find ways to help.

That’s why, three years ago, we teamed up with StepChange Debt Charity to help customers of Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water when they face financial difficulties.

An industry first, the partnership was set up to offer customers access to free, confidential debt advice and support.

Water is essential to life so when customers think they are unable to pay their bill we know it can lead to broader worries that add to their financial concerns.

As the UK’s largest debt charity, StepChange is a natural partner to entrust with such important and often sensitive matters for our customers.

In the last two years, the partnership has seen more than 6,300 referrals to StepChange. These referrals allow us to understand better each customer’s financial situation and creates an opportunity – and the time – for them to work with the charity to put together an action plan.

The partnership runs alongside a range of support available directly through our team, giving customers a number of ways to pay their bills. These include monthly instalments and budget plans, to help customers spread the cost of our services. Short term payment plans and even payment holidays for customers who have a break in income are also available.

Like most other water companies we also have special social tariffs which can help customers in particularly difficult financial circumstances reduce arrears and provide bill reductions.

Some customers might also save money if they have a water meter fitted. These can be installed, in most cases, free of charge. If customers do not make savings in the first 24 months, they can switch back to an unmetered tariff.

A special, reduced tariff, WaterSure, is also available to vulnerable customers on a meter who need to use large volumes of water due to their personal circumstances.

To find out if a water meter might make savings for their home, customers can look on our website.

There are a number of ways customers can get in touch to find out how we can help with regards all of these issues. They can call us on 0800 1214608, e-mail SupportPLUS@nwl.co.uk or use the live chat on our website, www.nwl.co.uk.

CCWater, as the independent consumer voice, has worked with 19 water companies – including Northumbrian Water – to help them launch social tariff schemes which can reduce the bills of low income households. Take a look at our guide to see if you might qualify for support.

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