Independent Affordability Review

We were asked by Defra and Welsh Government to conduct an independent review of current financial support for water customers and make recommendations on how to improve the help available to customers who may struggle to pay their water and sewerage bills.

Our call for evidence

In October, we put out a call for evidence to help us with our review. We wanted to know how you think low-income families could be better supported. Find out more about our call for evidence and read the responses here.

We’ve worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders to review the effectiveness of current methods and create a series of recommendations to help struggling households get the help they need, when they need it.

Our recommendations to end water poverty

Water is so essential to our daily lives that it is regarded as a basic human right. Even while we all need water, not everyone can afford to pay for it.

Our recommendations outline our plans for Governments, regulators, third-sector organisations and the water industry to work together to help end water poverty and support millions of people who are struggling.

Our supporting evidence

 

Helpful tools and advice to save you money

If you’re having trouble paying your water bills, we have some helpful information and tools that will help you save money.

Did you miss us live?

Don’t worry, below you can view a recording of CCW’s Emma Clancy, Dr Mike Keil and Andy White launching our recommendations, which outline our plans to help end water poverty and support millions of people who are struggling.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and we will answer them for you.

36 comments

  1. Anna Bagrova says:

    You mentioned the importance of addressing the environmental challenges to ensure water affordability in the future. Are there any initiatives that you are recommending in this area?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Anna – a great question! We are recommending that companies should identify options to provide enhanced water efficiency interventions, particularly targeting low income households. For example, crisis or trust funds could provide support for low income households towardspurchasing water efficient white goods.

      We also want water companies to ensure that water efficiency forms part of their affordability strategies by linking in messaging to raise the profile of opportunities to save water and money.

  2. Lia Moutselou says:

    I see the link between climate change and extreme weather events and poverty. Maybe we need to all reflect more on this as people who are disadvantaged can suffer more during extreme weather events which increasingly affect all, our services or ability to work. The pandemic taught us that …

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks, a good point Lia.

  3. Samantha Ross says:

    How do you envisage the financial vulnerability code working within PSR? Do you see this as being customer self selection? Or do you envisage this being driven through company identification such as eligibility to social tariffs?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Samantha – I think we would welcome thoughts on this. It might certainly be sensible for companies to check that customers are happy for that information to be recorded during the course of discussions about their support needs.

  4. Sue Lindsay says:

    You’ve mentioned 9 pilot projects. Is there an opportunity for other companies to get involved if you have any gaps in what you’d like to trial.

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks very much Sue, that is a very welcome offer. We are certainly at the start of the process to make the recommendations a reality and ,as always, are keen to work with you in achieving that!

  5. Pete Cotton says:

    Great to see this report and greater alignment of support across the industry. How quickly do you think a new single social tariff can be implemented and what do you think the largest challenges are to overcome?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Pete – We recognize it will take some time to develop the single social tariff. The key challenge will be to get it right, and we are keen to work with companies and others to ensure the design delivers what is needed. As such we have suggested the timescale could be as much as 3-6 years. However we have also made recommendations about the funding of current social tariffs to ensure they can address needs arising from the pandemic in the meantime.

  6. Steve Crabb says:

    If I may ask a second question… Financial hardship is not currently one of the flags for PSR data capture. The data on customers on means tested benefits is available from DWP and can be shared thanks to the Digital Economy Act. Are you recommending that water companies should apply for this data and use it to track customers in financial hardship via PSR?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Steve. At this point the proposal is simply for companies to record financial vulnerability alongside other vulnerabilities once made aware of this from customers themselves.

  7. Bethan says:

    What type of information will be published on the outside of the envelope? It sounds interesting but emphasises the need for data protection to be built in to each pilot (as I’m sure it will be!) to avoid any data being disclosed inappropriately

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Bethan – an important point. This wouldn’t be customer specific information, just messaging to all about the availability of help if it is needed.

  8. Zoe McLeod says:

    Really pleased to see you encouraging flexible tailored support for customers alongside a consistent minimum.
    a) What did you learn from the energy sector about ‘what not to do’ with a sector wide social tariff?
    b) Did you do any research with customers and citizens about how they thought affordability support should be funded e.g. taxation or via bills? If so, what did they say?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Zoe. On the second point which we didn’t cover in the live launch – our research did cover this question. More customers do favour a public funding approach. However we have explored other options in the report as we are aware of the pressures on public expenditure. All the research reports have been published today and are linked from the report.

  9. Rob Wesley says:

    Great to see the report published today, and really pleased to have been able to contribute, along with many others – a real team effort. Such an important topic, and working together we can make real progress towards the shared goal of ending water poverty.

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks very much Rob!

  10. Jess Cook says:

    The scope of the review was clearly focused on direct affordability support, but as already mentioned, the level of water bills has a significant impact too. If you had the ability to do so, is there another area which each of you would have liked to focus on, perhaps which impacts the level of water bills but not necessarily the support offered?

  11. Lyvia Nabarro says:

    What steps is CCW taking through the recommendations to support affordability for business customers who may be struggling more so off the back of COVID-19?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for your comment Lyvia. The scope of the independent review was limited to household customers. However CCW is accutely aware that non-household customers are facing challenges too. You can find out more about what we have been doing to help protect them at the following link. https://www.ccwater.org.uk/coronavirus/

  12. Jonathan Cosson says:

    The example from Powys to show the disparity in social tariff levels across the England and Wales – referring to Hafren Dyfrdwy’s level of £110. The Welsh Water average reduction is approx £240 – significantly greater than HD. This is quite misleading as many people attending the session will assume that the reduction referred to is Welsh Water as it is in Wales. Could this be highlighted please.

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Jonathan, You are absolutely right that the difference highlighted specifically relates to customers in Powys served by Hafren Dyfrdwy. That is why we were specific about it relating to that area of Wales. We will also ensure that is clear if we make further reference to those figures.

  13. Steve Crabb says:

    Have you considered directly linking social tariff eligibility and debt counselling/income maximisation support to address the root causes of the financial hardship people are in?

    • Andy White says:

      Answered during the live launch.

  14. Anonymous says:

    What does ccw see as the most important recommendation

    • Andy White says:

      Answered during the live launch.

  15. Mark Grice says:

    What has been DEFRA’s & Welsh Governments initial response to the recommendations, particularly the single social tariff and the need for Government to leave on this?

    • Andy White says:

      Answered during the live launch.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Are water companies on board with this review and its recommendations?

    • Andy White says:

      Answered during the live launch.

  17. Louise Beardmore says:

    Brilliant to see the recommendations launched today and the collaboration and input from so many to enable clear recommendations to be made – now more than ever we all need to do more to support our customers and communities.

    • Andy White says:

      Thank you Louise!

  18. Penny Shepherd says:

    1. How do you propose how to avoid the “cliff edge” where someone who is eligible for the social tariff gets support but someone who is ineligible by say £1 of income pays the full cost of the support for others?

    2. The cost of water bills across the country is not the same. How do you ensure that a common social tariff takes this into account? The video on the post code lottery didn’t seem to do that.

    • Andy White says:

      Answered during the live launch.

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