Hundreds of thousands more people to receive help paying their water bills
- Water companies are increasing their support for low-income households by over £200 million
- Announcement coincides with a new campaign ‘Support on Tap’ from Water UK and consumer body CCW
Water companies are significantly increasing their help for customers in response to the cost-of-living crisis, says Water UK.
Hundreds of thousands more customers are set to receive financial help as companies increase their support for low-income households by over £200 million. Some of this expanded support is available right now, while other schemes will come online over coming weeks and months.
This builds on the 1.1 million customers that already receive reduced bills – itself the biggest level of support ever offered by the industry – as well as the unprecedented help given to customers during the Covid-19 pandemic, when more than 100,000 payment breaks were approved.
Targeted support is also available for low-income customers who use a lot of water for essential family or health reasons through the WaterSure scheme. And, more broadly, a wide range of assistance (not just financial) is available through the Priority Services Register for a wide range of people, from those with sight, hearing, or mobility difficulties, to parents with babies under 12 months old.
The announcement coincides with the launch of a new campaign ‘Support on Tap’ from Water UK and CCW which aims to make as many people as possible aware of the help available from water companies.
Examples of increased support include:
- Affinity Water have increased the number of customers on discounted tariffs (discounted for low-income households) by over 55% since March 2020 and are making one-off affordability payments of £50 for up to 30,000 of the company’s most financially vulnerable customers
- Anglian Water have announced a £135 million package of customer support helping 330,000 customers over the next year – the company’s largest ever support package and builds on a £65 million package announced for 2022. This includes discounted tariffs on water bills of up to 50 per cent for eligible customers, temporary payment plans, forgiveness schemes, payment breaks in certain circumstances, and direct support through the Anglian Water Assistance Fund
- Northumbrian Water have reduced the proportion of their customers in water poverty from 18% in 2018 to less than 10% in 2021/22, by a package of measures including raising awareness of the support that is available and data sharing. At the same time the number of customers on social tariffs has increased by 50%
- Portsmouth Water have increased the length of ‘payment holidays’ from 3 to 6 months and have more than 10,000 customers on social tariffs – meeting their 2025 target almost three years ahead of schedule
- Severn Trent will help 100,000 additional households with social tariffs as part of an additional £30 million package of support. More than 215,000 households are already being supported. In addition, the company is helping up to 100,000 people find employment and fulfil their potential as part of their Societal Strategy
- South East Water has increased the income threshold by nine per cent for its Social Tariff, which caps the cost of tap water and waste water, from £16,480 to £18,005 so that more customers can receive financial help. Its innovative data sharing scheme with three local councils to automatically identify and sign up eligible customers is being expanded with five more local councils about to join. A Trusted Partners Scheme, working with charities and voluntary groups in the third sector, is also automatically transferring people onto the tariff and Priority Services Register without the need to apply.
- South West Water has made nearly £70 million of support available to customers since 2020, of which over £39.2million has been given back to customers through reduced bills as part of the company’s unique WaterShare+ scheme and the industry-first Stop The Drop customer initiative, with around 70,000 customers having accessed one or more of its initiatives
- South Staffs Water and Cambridge Water have increased the income threshold of their social tariff from £17,005 per year to £19,050, so that more customers are eligible. In 2021/22 63,339 customers received the discounted tariff and the aim is to double the number of customers who receive support to pay their bills.
- Southern Water is providing a £98m package of support for customers with the number of households receiving help rising by 21,000. Meanwhile the minimum discount has risen from 20% to 45% with those most at need receiving up to 90% off their bills
- Thames Water will provide support to an additional 53,000 households in the billing year 23/24, taking the total helped to 384,000. The total value of this support is forecast to be over £110m in 23/24 and combined with 24/25 will exceed £240m
- United Utilities are providing a total of £280m support help the most vulnerable up to 2025, through discounted tariffs and grants to individuals and families, with more than 200,000 customers set to be supported this year
Stuart Colville, Water UK Director of Policy, said:
“Water companies work at the heart of their communities so see the acute pressure that many customers are feeling at the moment. That’s why they are taking decisive action to ensure those in need get the right help.
“I would urge anyone who is worried about paying their bill to get in touch with their water company today. There is a range of help available, and companies are increasingly working with other organisations to ensure everyone is aware of the help available.”
Anyone with concerns about paying their water bill should contact their local water company to see what support is available for them. You can find out who your water company is here with a full list of financial support by company is available on the ‘Support on Tap’ webpage here. Unlike other utilities, household water customers will never be disconnected for non-payment of bills.
Notes to editors
- For more information, please contact the Water UK comms team on 020 7344 1805 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Average Bill Cap
Capping bills at the average yearly charge means that customers on means tested benefits that have unavoidably high usage will never pay more than the average bill.
Priority Services Register
Customers who need practical support can sign up to the Priority Services Register for free and remain on it as long as is necessary.
The Priority Services Register is available to a wide range of people, from those with sight, hearing, or mobility difficulties, to parents with babies under 12 months old. Water companies offer a wide range of support, from reading your meter for you to sending out bills in other formats. You can contact your water company.
The WaterSure scheme is available for certain customers with a water meter. It allows them to have their bills capped. This is to make sure that these customers don’t cut back on how much water they use because they are worried about how they will pay their bill.
To qualify for help under the WaterSure scheme, you or someone living with you, needs be entitled to receive certain benefits. For a full list of those eligible, click here.