Water bills are the most common cause of debt for people on a low income, a new report on UK poverty has revealed.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s UK Poverty 2018 study, water arrears weighs heaviest on the poorest families – ahead of other debts including council tax, rent and energy bills.
The findings echo the concerns of the Consumer Council for Water which has been pressing water companies to do more to ensure financial support reaches the 3 million households that have told the Water Watchdog they struggle to afford their water bills.
Back in October 2018, CCWater’s Water for All report called on companies to pour some of their own profits into extending support to customers facing financial hardship.
Responding to today’s report by the Foundation, Andy White, Senior Policy Manager at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “None of us should have to worry about whether we can afford something as essential as water but we know that about 3 million households are struggling with their water bills.”
“Water companies are doing more to try and help through schemes like social tariffs but awareness of this support remains far too low. About a quarter of households have told us they would be unlikely to contact their water company if they were worried about a bill. That tells us that companies are still not doing enough to convince their customers they are a source of help in times of hardship.”
Overall, the report found one in five of the UK population (22%) are in poverty – 14.3 million people. Of these, 8.2 million are working-age adults, 4.1 million are children and 1.9 million are pensioners. Eight million people live in poverty in families where at least one person is in work.
In-work poverty has been rising even faster than employment, with nearly all of the increase among working parents. There are now four million workers in poverty, around one in eight in the economy.
There are lots of schemes to help consumers struggling to pay their water bills