The Consumer Council for Water has today published Water for All – Affordability and vulnerability in the water sector (2017-18).
Our report examines the performance of water companies across England and Wales in supporting customers in a wide range of vulnerable circumstances. This includes households facing financial hardship and people that need extra help accessing their water and sewerage services. Insights gained from our other consumer research have also been used to identify areas for improvement and suggestions on how to address these issues.
Our key findings include:
- For the first time more than half a million low-income customers have signed up to water company assistance schemes that can reduce their bills, including social tariffs.
- These existing schemes only have the capacity to support around a quarter of nearly 3 million households who tell us their water bills are unaffordable.
- Customer awareness of financial assistance schemes remains low and we expect water companies to keep working with us to reach those households that are missing out.
- We expect water companies to make use of new data-sharing powers to help them support the hardest to reach customers.
- Companies continue to make good progress in boosting the number of customers signed up to Priority Services Registers for additional help accessing services.
- However, the industry needs to focus on improving its support for customers who suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves in vulnerable circumstances, for example, due to illness or bereavement.
- Our recent report ‘Vulnerability in the water sector’ (pdf) highlighted examples of good practice, but also called for companies to do more to innovate to protect consumers in vulnerable circumstances.