Affordability Review: Call for Evidence

CCW is proud to have been asked by government to undertake an independent review of current financial support measures, and to identify opportunities to improve the help available to financially vulnerable households.

Over the last decade there has been a significant increase in the range and scope of support measures provided by water companies in England and Wales to support customers who would otherwise struggle to pay their household water and sewerage bills. However, not all households are receiving the support they need, and the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to result in increased pressure on existing schemes and available funding.

In October 2020, we launched our call for evidence to inform our review, and we wanted to hear your views on what changes needed to be made to better help those households in need. Read our call for evidence below, and check out the responses to our consultation here.

Missed us live?

CCW’s Emma Clancy and Andy White, Water UK’s Christine McGourty and Matt Vaughan-Wilson of the Money Advice Trust launched the review in a live, interactive online event on Thursday 22 October. Don’t worry if you missed it, you can view a recording of the below.

45 comments

  1. Anita says:

    NEEDS absolutely critical and urgent address – the sale of water as a private entity. If ever there is evidence screaming out loud to illustrate Capitalism as a broken system SO far gone – it is in the sale of water – water containing Fluoride one might add ( a neuro -toxin and sedative and banned pertty much world over bar the UK and US. Nature provides way more than the body requires and water does not need this added in the amounts it is ), in this country. For profit. The Water Sure plus system is not working for people on low incomes as I have heard.

  2. Zoe McLeod says:

    Great launch event today CCW.
    It will be really important to ensure this review genuinely goes beyond existing research undertaken. Two reports from us, and I’m sure others have many.
    For cross sector good practice and innovation see Sustainability First’s Project Inspire – https://www.sustainabilityfirst.org.uk/inspire
    In addition, the Sustainability First/CEPA report on Water Poverty for UKWIR which developed a drivers approach to tackling water poverty and reviewed the current approaches – https://ukwir.org/bq-defining-water-poverty-and-evaluating-existing-information-and-approaches-to-reduce-water-poverty

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks very much Zoe. We are very keen to take account of all the great work which has gone before in undertaking the review.

  3. Jess Cook says:

    Picking up on a question missed by someone anonymous…

    CCW play an active role in the water industry, so what have you got in place to make sure you can remain impartial in this review?

    And in looking at cross-sector support, will you be working with other industries to align eligibility criteria and support levels to ensure that someone entitled to support in one area can also receive it in another?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Jess. We touched on the point about impartiality in the session. It is also worth mentioning that we have established an advisory group which will help bring external challenge to our work.

      We will be looking ‘cross sector’ in undertaking the review, but are not starting off with any set views on this point.

  4. Carl Pegg says:

    To encourage multi agencies to work in colloboration to eradicate water poverty, is review likely to recommend a basket of measures to benchmark effectiveness of support?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Carl. This is something to consider as part of the review, but we don’t have a view at this point.

  5. Jane Crisp says:

    Digital economy Act failed to deliver on ease of pass-porting customers that are eligible onto tariffs – this review is very welcome however accessibility and pass-porting should be made easier through data

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Jane. Plans to utilise data sharing powers under the Digital Economy Act were delayed due to Covid-19 impact, but are in the process of resuming. So we will need to give that some more time. There is always a balance to be struck between protecting people’s rights to privacy and the pragmatic use of data to deliver support.

  6. Mike Short says:

    How will this work dovetail into what has already been agreed and endorsed as part of the PR19 process.

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Mike. That will, of course, depend on our recommendations and how Government responds to them. Whatever the outcome we will work with the sector to help ensure the best outcomes for customers.

  7. Steve Crabb, Affinity Water says:

    Will the review consider opportunities for cross-sectoral support for customers with problem debt? And any views on whether data sharing will be in scope?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Steve – cross sector opportunities will be considered and we have commissioned work on this. We welcome thought on data sharing beyond the current opportunities provided by the Digital Economy Act.

  8. Fiona says:

    Hello, would your review include areas not classed as England – Channel Islands, IOW, IOM etc?
    thanks

    • Andy White says:

      Hi Fiona – I can confirm that our review applies only to the water industry in England and Wales.

  9. Lia Moutselou says:

    As well as engaging people in poverty and those vulnerable should we be planning to engage those who are Just About Managing (JAMs). There is an increasing number of people who are living a few months a way from poverty or not being able to afford those bills. How do we take this group into account?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for the question Lia – we responded during the launch event. Please see the video above.

  10. Kiri Saunders says:

    How have the water sector received news of this review? And when do CCW plan to have concluded this review?

    • Andy White says:

      Hi Kiri – Thanks for the question , which we responded to during the launch event. Please see the video above.

  11. Zoe McLeod says:

    Christine mentioned about 1.5m customers being helped by water companies in the next couple of years. The FCA today said there are 12 million customers who are financially vulnerable. There was already a gap between support available and need pre-Covid. Now there is a chasm. Will you be exploring views on what is an appropriate role for a water company/what they can realistically be expected to deliver – where their role ends? Also, what it is and isn’t appropriate for customers to cross-subsidise?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Zoe – we responded during the launch event. Please see the video above.

  12. anonymous says:

    CCW has had a role in developing social tariff schemes and other support services with water companies, are you far enough away to be looking at this without bias?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for the question – we responded during the launch event. Please see the video above.

  13. Jamie Grier @ Turn2us says:

    Is there an opportunity for the review to work closely with water consumers experiencing financial hardship to gather insights and co-produce the recommendations.

    In general – what’s the panels view on Government support for affordability? In theory DWP data could automatically identify customers eligible for support, to be run via claims to Universal Credit.

    • Andy White says:

      Hi Jamie – we addressed the first point during the event. See the video above.

      Work is underway to implement data sharing using the provisions of the Digital Economy Act.

      Any extension of data sharing would be a matter for Government and the Information Commissioner however we would welcome thoughts on this point.

  14. Louise Beardmore says:

    Really important review that is needed now more than ever. Interested to hear your thoughts about engaging all communities. Are there any initial thoughts on how we could engage more hard to reach communities or vulnerable customer groups to ensure all views and needs are heard as part of this review.

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks Louise – we responded during the launch event. Please see the video above.

  15. JANET RILEY says:

    will the review look at variable tariffs regarding income and water usage

    • Andy White says:

      Hi Janet – we are not ruling anything out and would welcome views and evidence on the role variable tariffs might play.

  16. Karma Loveday says:

    As the Eng & Welsh Governments have asked CCW to conduct this review, is more publicly funded help a possibility, as well as help funded by water companies or other water customers? Thank you.

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for the question Karma – we responded during the launch event. Please see the video above.

  17. anonymous says:

    Will CCW be doing anything else to gather evidence to inform the review?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for the question – we responded during the launch event. Please see the video above.

  18. Bernard Cysewski says:

    General social tariffs and eligibility criteria to access support needs a uniform approach. Links with HMRC and DWP need to be explored to automatically transfer customers onto social tariffs not just for water but all utilities for people with less than £16k income baseline. Disability income should be disregarded

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Bernard. The sector is establishing arrangements with DWP to share data utilising the provisions of the Digital Economy Act. That could potentially enable pass-porting onto social tariff schemes.

  19. anonymous says:

    Will the review just focusing on social tariffs or will it look at other support provided by companies?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for the question – we responded during the launch event. Please see the video above.

  20. Lia Moutselou says:

    There is a link between household affordability and financial difficulties faced by businesses. Helping a business survive and cope with ongoing expenses might help the individuals it employs afford their bills as a household.

    How are we going to consider supporting and helping business customers survive this crisis so that household they employ can cope with the pressure of bills in the forthcoming months? Will this link be considered as part of our review?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for the question. We have played a key role in ensuring measures are put in place to support businesses under the current circumstances. However that work is outside of the scope of this review.

  21. anonymous says:

    Will wider vulnerability support be taken into account?

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for the question – we responded during the launch event. Please see the video above.

    • Andy White says:

      Thanks for the question – we responded during the launch event. Please see the video above.

  22. John Thompson says:

    Consideration should be given to whether a common definition of water poverty can be agreed. If a definition is agreed water companies should use is as one of the criteria for eligibility for financial support e.g. social tariff, water charity support.

    Is CCW planning to undertake specific research for the review on the scope and effectiveness of financial support for customers by water companies?

    • Andy White says:

      Hi John – Water UK are progressing work to consider a single water poverty definition. We are contributing to this work and will take account of it in the review.

      The call for evidence and research we are undertaking will provide us with additional insights into the effectiveness of current support – supplementing our existing understanding.

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