Households struggling to afford their water bills are being urged by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) to use new online tools which could provide a vital boost to their finances.
CCWater has teamed up with poverty relief charity Turn2us to provide a benefits calculator and grants search tool to help struggling water customers in England and Wales identify ways to bolster their income.
The partnership forms part of wider efforts by the independent water watchdog to ensure the one in eight water customers who say their water bill is not affordable receive the help they need before sinking into debt1.
The scale of this challenge was highlighted in a recent report which revealed the amount owed to water companies in unpaid bills has risen by 17 per cent since 20102.
Andy White, Senior Policy Manager at CCWater, said: “This important partnership with Turn2us is just one of the ways we are working to ensure more customers who are struggling to keep their head above water don’t miss out on assistance.
“We know from speaking to customers on low incomes that they often have no idea that help exists – or they are too embarrassed to ask – so they end up suffering in silence and often sacrifice essential items such as food or heating to try to pay their bill. We hope these tools will make it even easier for households to get access to the support they need.”
The calculator can help households quickly identify whether they are entitled to a wide range of means-tested benefits, including Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support and Working Tax Credit. Customers can also click onto the grants search tool to see whether they might qualify for assistance from over 3,000 charitable funds, including those established by water companies.
CCWater’s website also features a useful guide to water company social tariffs to help low-income households work out whether they might qualify for reduced water bills. And a few clicks on CCWater’s water meter calculator can also help customers work out if switching to a water meter might save them money.
Customers without internet access can contact CCWater on 0300 034 2222 (England) or 0300 034 3333 (Wales) and our staff will be happy to guide them through the process.
For more information or to arrange an interview call the CCWater media team on 0121 345 1005.
1 Water Matters: Household Customer Views on their water and sewerage services – published by the Consumer Council for Water.
2 Affordability and debt 2014-15 – a report by water industry regulator Ofwat (pdf) This figure is compiled from company data submissions and is based on revenue relating to water and/or sewerage charges at the end of the report year that has been billed to households, but not collected.