United spreads safety net for vulnerable

United Utilities has launched a help scheme for vulnerable customers in a bid to raise the profile of its support offering and encourage those eligible to come forward. The scheme includes tailored support for people amid transient "life events" such as job loss as well as customers with ongoing disabilities and other more conventional manifestations of vulnerability.

United said it was bidding to increase awareness of its Priority Services scheme which it said provides help in managing debt as well as support for customers in poor mental health or those coping with unexpected difficulties such as divorce and bereavement. "We know that many thousands of customers in the North West face multiple challenges, but are hesitant to ask for help, or are simply unaware that support is out there," said United’s customer services director, Louise Beardmore.

United said the scheme makes available a "specialist team who can provide tailored support for as long as it’s needed." It includes call handlers trained by organisations including Mind, The Samaritans, SkillsGen and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, will support those who register for the scheme, UNited said.

United said environment secretary, Rory Stewart, was among a group of MPs pledging support for the scheme

“I fully back this new scheme, since customers are often unaware of the support schemes their utility provider can offer. Assistance is often stumbled upon, rather than actively sought out, and many customers who are in difficulty avoid making contact because of what they anticipate may be a stressful, confrontational encounter,' said Stewart.