For many water customers in Wales the due date for water bills is fast approaching, and the Consumer Council for Water wants customers to know that support is available, especially for those struggling to afford water and sewerage charges.
Customers who are unable to pay their bill should get in touch with their water company as soon as possible to make the company aware of the situation and get the support on offer. More flexible payment options are available which allow customers to pay charges in a way that suits their circumstances better, such as weekly or monthly payment plans.
For those customers in arrears there are schemes which might help clear some outstanding debts. Individual water companies have different application procedures, and there are different eligibility criteria. Customers are encouraged to contact their water company to find out more. For example, if you are a D?r Cymru Welsh Water customer in hardship with arrears of £150 or more, and are committed to making regular payments towards your current water charges, you may qualify for exceptional assistance through the Customer Assistance Fund.
Where customers have got behind with their water bills and are in receipt of certain income related benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions may be able to provide budgeting help by deducting a set amount from benefit and paying it direct to the water company until the arrears are cleared. Customers who think they could be eligible should contact their water company or the Department for Work and Pensions to apply. D?r Cymru Welsh Water offers a one off discount to customers of £25 for signing up to this scheme.
In addition there is the Welsh Water Assist tariff for D?r Cymru Welsh Waters customers. Customers may be eligible if they receive income related benefits and can either provide evidence of a medical condition that means they need to use significantly more water or have three children under 19 (in full time education) who live with them and receive child benefit. This scheme caps a households water and sewerage bill at £228. Customers of Dee Valley Water who meet these criteria and also have a water meter can apply for a similar scheme, called WaterSure. Customers who think they may be eligible should contact their water company, as those who sign up have the potential to save a significant amount.
In Wales, over two thirds of water customers still pay charges based on the rateable value of their homes, but many people living alone or in a two person household could save money by having a water meter installed. Water companies install meters for free, and customers can try the meter for a year and switch back if they dont like it. If a meter cannot be fitted, companies can offer an alternative unmeasured tariff which may be lower than the current bill. A calculator to help customers work out how much they would pay on a metered charge is available on the Consumer Council for Waters website, www.ccwater.org.uk.
Diane McCrea, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water in Wales, said: One in six customers tell us that their water bills are unaffordable, and we are putting pressure on the Government to address the issue more directly though taxation and benefits.
If customers are worried about paying their water bills they should not hesitate to contact their water company. Companies may be able to offer more flexible payment options or other tariffs which might help eligible customers clear some outstanding debt, or to reduce bills with the Welsh Water Assist or Watersure scheme.
Consumer Council for Waters experienced staff can also explain the options available and point customers in the right direction during what can be a stressful time. Were here to make sure customers get the help they are entitled to, and there is no charge for contacting us.