The due date for paying water bills is fast approaching but there is support available for those struggling to make the payments, says water watchdog the Consumer Council for Water.
Customers who are unable to pay their bill should approach their water company for help as soon as possible. Making the company aware of the situation means customers can get the support they need. Water companies can offer more flexible payment options which allow customers to pay charges in a way that better suits their circumstances, such as a weekly or monthly payment plan.
Also, many water companies have set up trusts or other schemes which could help customers clear some outstanding debt. Individual water companies have different application procedures and there are different criteria which customers must meet to be eligible for these schemes. Customers should contact their water company to find out more.
Where customers are behind in paying their water bills and are in receipt of certain income related benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may be able to provide budgeting help by deducting a set amount from benefits and paying it directly to the water company until the arrears are cleared. Customers who think they could be eligible for the Water Direct scheme should contact their water company or the DWP to apply.
Customers on a water meter who have three or more dependent children, or a medical condition that means they need to use more water, are eligible for help under the WaterSure scheme if they also receive income related benefits. WaterSure caps a households water bill at the average rate for their area so vulnerable households can use the water they need without having to worry about a high bill.
Customers who think they may be eligible should contact their water company and those who sign up have the potential to save a significant amount. For example, a household of five with a water meter could be spending around £700 per year on water. By being on the WaterSure scheme, a low income household could cut this bill in half.
Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: We know that levels of water debt are increasing, currently around £1.4 billion industry wide, and more and more people are struggling to pay all household bills, not just water. If customers are worried about paying their water bills they should not hesitate in contacting their local water company.
Consumer Council for Water 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.
For more information visit the Consumer Council for Water website at www.ccwater.org.uk or phone 0845 039 2837.