GUEST BLOG: Helping struggling water customers stay afloat

Over the past few years CCWater has pressed each of the water companies to provide more support to customers who cannot afford their water bills.

JANE CRISP – AFFORDABILITY AND VULNERABILITY LEAD AT SOUTHERN WATER – explains how the company is taking on the challenge of helping thousands of customers in financial difficulty.

Last year, we made a promise to give more support and advice to our customers struggling to pay their water bills.

This has never been more important – shocking CCWater research found many low income customers continue to pay their water bills even when it becomes unaffordable to do so. These customers cut back on water usage (including essential usage) or sacrifice other essentials such as food or heating in order to ensure their bill is paid.

Supporting our community

That’s why it’s vital we help support them. We’ve already helped 142,000 people in 2015/16 alone but it’s my job to make sure we can reach even more. We let people know about this work by any means available – from community events, social media, advertising and local newsletters to traditional news articles and interviews. We want to make it as easy as possible for struggling customers to get the help and advice they need.

I joined Southern Water in September after 26 years in the housing sector working with marginalised communities.

My role, affordability & vulnerability lead, is a new position created to make sure those entitled to extra help are getting it. This means spreading the word – so if you know anyone who is worried about their water bill, please point them in our direction.

No such thing as one size fits all

The issue of debt is complex and varied, and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. That’s why we offer tariffs and schemes to fit with different circumstances and have a specialised debt advice team on hand. To find out more about how we can help please visit: https://www.southernwater.co.uk/difficulty-paying-your-bill

Preventing debt

It’s crucial we are proactive and also focus on debt prevention. In one initiative, we have a team of water efficiency experts who can visit customers at home and fit free water-saving gadgets to taps, toilets and showers. On average, these are leading to a ten per cent reduction in water use. When you have a meter and are paying for what you use, this means real, tangible savings. More details here: www.southernwater.co.uk/home-visit

There’s more

Of course, as CCWater said recently, targeted help is not just about making bills affordable. Any of us can find ourselves in vulnerable circumstances – financial, medical or otherwise – at any time. Supporting everyone, whatever their  needs, is a must. Do you need your bill to be in Braille? Do you have a medical condition that means we must deliver bottled water if your supply is lost? Whatever it is, it’s really important you let us know: www.southernwater.co.uk/contactus

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