Financial support grants are just one of a range of schemes that water companies can offer as a life raft to help customers stay afloat during times of extreme hardship. CCW Senior Policy Manager Jenny Suggate sets out some of the ways water companies can ensure these funds provide the greatest support to those that need it most.
We know that times are tough for a growing number of people caught up in the cost of living crisis. Prices for the essentials we all depend on are rising steeply – in some cases even higher than inflation.
There are many ways the water industry can help households weather the storm. One of these includes making life easier for organisations like debt advice agencies supporting people on the frontline of this crisis.
Water companies offer a wide range of assistance for customers in the grip of financial hardship. Some offer financial support grants that can help people in a variety of ways. This might include paying for a fridge or other white goods, bedding, curtains or writing off their water debt. This is a great way to go the extra mile to help.
Last year, our independent review of water affordability put forward 40 actions for the sector to take forward to help people struggling to pay their water bill. One of these included reviewing how financial support grants are awarded.
This has led us to come up with some principles that the organisations who award these grants could chose to operate by. Adopting these principles would mean that people across England and Wales would know what to expect if they applied for financial support from these funds. These principles could also be used in other sectors, such as energy.
Best practice principles for those companies with crisis funds or who are considering one
- The availability of a fund should be readily accessible on water companies’ websites, in customer literature and targeted to relevant third party agencies
- Funds need to be flexible so they can match a person’s needs, for example, the timescale for the award process should be flexible enough to ensure the urgency of the customer’s situation is recognised
- Awards should offer help in other ways that are over and above just support with the water bill and arrears
- The award decision-making process should allow for independence from the company, (such as a minimum a non-executive director being involved). The decision-making process should be clear and transparent.
The next step for us is to work with water companies as they review their funds or set up new ones and encourage them to apply these principles.