Back in January 2016 CCWater teamed up with poverty relief charity Turn2Us to launch two online tools to help boost the income of water customers in financial hardship. A year on from forging this new partnership, our affordability expert Andy White explains how thousands of consumers are now seeing the benefits.
When you tot up the cost of running your home, water bills are unlikely to be the biggest drain on your finances. Yet around one in eight households across England and Wales still find it a battle to afford something so essential for living healthy lives. The growth of food banks means many of us will be familiar with the term ‘food poverty’. But for thousands of households water poverty is also a grim reality.
Over the past decade CCWater has been at the forefront of trying to help ease the pressure on customers who are battling to keep on top of water bill payments. Our approach has often focussed on helping customers find ways to reduce their bills, or pressing water companies to increase their support for people in financial hardship. And we’ve been successful at it. The emergence of schemes like social tariffs means there is now more support for water customers on a low income than ever before. Our water meter calculator also continues to help thousands of people identify whether they might be better of on a meter.
But back in 2015, as we began to meet with Turn2Us, our eyes were opened to a different approach. Instead of just helping customers reduce their bills, what if we could boost their income too? According to the charity more than £16 billion in benefits and tax credits go unclaimed each year. That is a huge sum of money with the potential to change the fortunes of thousands of households.
So in January last year we teamed up with Turn2Us to launch a Benefits Calculator on our website. This tried-and-tested tool helps people navigate the complexities of the welfare system and quickly identify whether they may be entitled to additional income. We also introduced a Grants Search tool, giving people the chance to find support from more than 3,000 charitable trusts.
Although we were confident these tools would make a difference, their impact has raced far beyond our expectations.
In the past 12 months more than 4,600 consumers have used the Benefits Calculator and identified annual welfare benefit entitlements of more than £3.25 million. Over 1,000 people have also used our Grant Search tool to identify opportunities to secure a share in the £330 million pot of funding.
Of course it’s only the start and with billions of pounds of benefits still going unclaimed, there are thousands of customers we’ve yet to reach.
So if you’ve been struggling to pay – please don’t delay.
Turn2us is fighting UK poverty by helping people in financial difficulty gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other support – online, by phone and face-to-face through partner organisations. For more information visit www.turn2us.org.uk