We have published Water for All – Affordability and vulnerability in the water sector (2018-19) report, which 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:
- Almost 700,000 financially vulnerable water customers are now receiving help through reduced bills.
- The schemes currently in place are likely to leave more than half of the problem unaddressed, and the amount and type of help varies considerably from region to region.
- Companies should do more to contribute to the funding of their social tariff schemes in order to help address this gap and enable greater consistency.
- Customer awareness of financial support schemes remains low (WaterSure 12% social tariffs (5%). We expect companies to continue to work with us, making use of the research insights and good practice we share, to make further progress in this area.
- We also expect companies to make use of new data sharing powers to help them target support to the hardest to reach customers.
- Approximately 420,000 customers are signed up for water company priority services schemes. This represents good progress by companies in growing the number of customers registered to receive extra help with their services, but there is still a lot more work to be done.
- Customer awareness of this assistance is higher than for financial assistance schemes, but further progress is still necessary, as it has stabilised at 44%.
- Companies still need to give increased focus to identifying and getting assistance to customers who suddenly face vulnerability.
- Companies also need to have systems that are capable of allowing the recording, monitoring and refreshing of data relating to customers who need temporary support.