According to a new report from the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater), the number of low-income households in England and Wales receiving Financial help from their water company has virtually doubled to in excess of 400,000 over the past twelve months.
While this financial aid for low-income households is commendable, the water watchdog has warned that it is but a drop in the ocean as there are around 3 million households who have reported that they cannot afford to pay their water bills.
According to CCWater’s report; Staying afloat: Addressing customer vulnerability in the water sector (2016/17), in excess of 260,500 – an increase of 93% on the previous year – low-income bill payers have had their water and sewerage charges slashed through social tariffs.
A further 141,000 households are also registered for the industry’s WaterSure scheme, which can cap the bills of low-income customers who have high essential water usage needs.
Despite all of this, the watchdog says that ongoing financial assistance with water bills is only available to around 20% of the customers who really need it. While the watchdog has, together with the industry, worked hard to boost awareness of customer-funded social tariffs, funding for some of the schemes has already dried up.
Andy White, Senior Policy Manager at the Consumer Council for Water, said:
“Water companies have taken big strides towards helping more customers in financial hardship, but it’s still only scratching the surface.”
“No one should have to struggle to afford something that is so essential for them to live a healthy life. Water companies have the power to change this by dipping into their own pockets to increase the amount of support on offer.”
Reacting to CCWater’s report, Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of Water UK, the body which represents all the UK water companies, said:
“The big increase in help being given to customers by their water companies reflects the major emphasis the industry places on supporting vulnerable people. Although water bills usually cost households just over £1 a day we know that many people can struggle to pay, which is why water companies provide them with help worth more than £40 million each year and are constantly looking at ways to target support at those who need it most. As the report acknowledges, we are on track to deliver financial support to an additional 1 million people by 2020.”
“The issue of providing support to vulnerable customers will also be addressed during the next price review by Ofwat, due to be implemented in 2020.”
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