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  • by Trevor Loveday

Consumer watchdog calls for views on support for low-income households in paying water bills

The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) has launched a review of the support currently on offer to water customers in financial hardship “to explore how we can put in place fair and sustainable long-term support.”

CCW has issued a call for evidence to gather the views of individuals and organisations on “what needs to change to improve the support for households.” The consumer watchdog said it will work with the water sector and other organisations in a bid to “identify new opportunities to make sure households in financially vulnerable circumstances get the help they need.”

The call for evidence will close on 15 December 2020 and CCW will present its findings and recommendations in spring, 2021.

The review follows a request from the UK government and the Welsh administration to look into help for households struggling to meet their water bills. CCW said existing support “falls short of addressing the scale of the problem and will be stretched even further beyond its limits as more people suffer financially at the hands of Covid-19.”

It said water companies’ social tariff schemes’ heavy reliance on other customers’ willingness to fund them has led to wide variability in eligibility for assistance, the value of the help on offer and the number of households that can be helped. Chair of CCW, Robert Light, said the financial support for hard up customers was “in danger of running dry even before Covid-19.”

Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher, commended water companies’ responses to the pandemic, with measures to assist households that were struggling to pay and highlighted that their social tariff support was on track to reach more customers than ever over the next five years. She added: “The scale of difficulties customers are facing calls for a fresh approach. We need to make sure that every customer is properly supported, wherever they live. And that the arrangements put in place are sustainable and robust even during economic downturns.”


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