31 March 2016
Thousands of low-income households across England and Wales are being urged by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) not to miss out on a raft of schemes which could stop water bills from draining their finances.
Eighteen out of 21 water companies will have social tariffs in place from April 1, with the potential over time to significantly reduce water bills for almost half a million customers who are struggling to pay.
South Staffs Water, Cambridge Water and Dee Valley Water will become the latest companies to launch their own schemes next month, when the average water and sewerage bill across England and Wales is set to rise by £2 to £389. Portsmouth Water will also have a new tariff in place to help those on low incomes from July.
CCWater has welcomed the roll out of social tariffs, having worked with companies on their development, but warned that many households are missing out on the help available to them due to a lack of awareness or reluctance to ask for help.
Andy White, Senior Policy Manager at CCWater, said: “We know from our research that one in eight households feel their water bill is not affordable. Help is waiting for thousands of customers, but many simply don’t expect to be able to get assistance from their water company.
“Our message is very simple – don’t suffer in silence, ask your water company if you qualify for help. Social tariffs can reduce bills by more than 50 per cent in some cases, and are usually just one of the ways companies can help those facing financial difficulties.”
Wessex Water and Bristol Water already operate social tariffs but are both adding new schemes from April 1, targeted at helping those who receive Pension Credit.
The other water companies with social tariffs are Affinity Water, Anglian Water, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, Essex and Suffolk Water, Northumbrian Water, Severn Trent Water, South East Water, South West Water, Southern Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, Thames Water and Yorkshire Water.
CCWater has produced a quick and easy-to-use online guide for households to check whether they might qualify for a social tariff which is available at ccwater.org.uk
The water watchdog has also teamed up with poverty relief charity Turn2Us to launch a Benefits Calculator and Grants Search tool on its website to help consumers work out if they could be entitled to additional financial support.
CCWater’s 5 top tips to reduce water bills
In addition to social tariffs there are a number of ways to cut your water bills:
• Consider switching to a water meter – For many households the most effective way to cut water bills is to install a water meter free of charge. Some people can save more than £100 a year. If your home has more bedrooms than people living there it’s worth looking into. Use our water meter calculator to see if you might save at www.ccwater.org.uk
• Soak-away savings – If you have a soak-away in your garden which drains all the surface water from your property back into the earth, you can apply to have surface water drainage charges removed from your bills. This will typically save you about £35 a year.
• Sign up to WaterSure – If you’re already on a water meter but have high usage due to a large family or medical condition, and also receive income related benefits, the WaterSure scheme could help. WaterSure limits the amount you’re charged each year and is available in England and Wales.
• Fish for some freebies – Most water companies will offer you free devices and advice that can help you reduce the water you use - ideal for saving money if you’re a metered customer.
• Apply for a trust fund payment or debt allowance scheme – if you’re in arrears on your water bill ask your water company if they have a scheme to help you pay them off. These can range from one-off trust fund payments to allowances against arrears, so long as regular payments are made.
For more information call the CCWater media team on 0121 345 1005
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) – ‘The independent voice of water customers’.
Who are we?
• CCWater was established in 2005 to provide strong representation for water customers in England and Wales.
• We are a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Welsh Government.
• We are independent of water companies and regulators.
What have we achieved for water customers?
• Ensured that average household water & sewerage bills will fall by 5 per cent by 2020, before inflation is added, by putting customers at the heart of the 2014 Price Review.
• Helped over 300,000 customers with complaints or enquiries about their water and sewerage services and secured over £20 million in compensation and rebates since 2005.
• Overseen more than a 60 per cent reduction in customer complaints since their peak in 2007/08 through challenging water companies to get more things ‘right first time.’
• Achieved all of this and more at an annual cost of just 21p per water customer.