Efforts to bolster financial support for households in Wales struggling to afford their water bill must succeed amid growing pressure on customers’ finances.
CCW has called for renewed urgency in putting in place a new universal water affordability scheme to provide fair, consistent and sustainable financial help for the 1.5 million households across Wales and England living in water poverty.
It comes as the water consumer watchdog’s annual Water Matters report reveals a steep rise among the unemployed, students and disabled customers, who say their water bill is unaffordable.
Just over a third of bill payers in Wales (36%) who took part in the survey said their finances had got worse during the past year, as the cost of living crisis continues to deepen and with the prospect of further inflation-busting energy bill rises looming this autumn.
CCW has been working with water companies in Wales as part of its independent review of water affordability to bring immediate relief to struggling households through a raft of changes. These include improving the promotion of and access to existing water company assistance schemes.
However, CCW continues to campaign for the introduction of a new universal water affordability scheme that would provide fair and consistent support for low-income households. The scheme would replace existing individual water company social tariffs, which remain hampered by funding constraints and variations in eligibility criteria.
Rhodri Williams, Wales Chair of CCW – the voice for water consumers, said:
“Soaring living costs are putting an intolerable strain on some of the most vulnerable households in Wales and we’re determined to ensure water bills don’t add to people’s worries.”
“Water companies in Wales are already doing a huge amount to support those in crisis but we must seize the opportunity to introduce a new water affordability scheme that will provide meaningful and sustainable support for those that need it most.”
The Welsh and UK governments established a development group to explore the proposal of a new water affordability scheme. New legislation would be needed to implement the changes but CCW wants to see the scheme launched no later than April 2025.
CCW’s latest survey findings show about 1 in 8 households in Wales currently consider their water bill to be unaffordable. That rises to around 1 in 5 among the unemployed, students and households with a disabled occupant.
The report also shines a light on the wider views of customers about the services they receive from their water company.
It found that overall satisfaction with water services in Wales remains very high at 93 per cent, while 86 per cent of households were satisfied with their sewerage service.
Fewer customers than the previous year felt what they were being charged by their water company was fair – slipping from 72 per cent to 62 per cent. However this could be a reflection of the wider financial pressures customers are experiencing due to the cost of living crisis.
Customers struggling to afford their water bill can explore the range of help on offer by visiting CCW’s financial support advice hub
You can read the full data report here