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  • by Karma Loveday

Ofwat research flags up mental health consequences of cost of living squeeze

Ofwat highlighted the link between difficult financial circumstances and customers’ mental health in new research published last week.

A survey of over 2,000 respondents conducted by Savanta in March – before April bill rises kicked in – found over half of water bill payers believe they will struggle to pay a utility bill over the coming year, rising to 7 in 10 if there are children in the household.

A third of those who expect their financial situation to get a lot worse in the next year report feeling depressed. Moreover, 47% of those who expect their financial situation to get worse reported feeling worried day to day and 38% reported feeling stressed.

Only 31% of bill payers reported they are aware that water companies offer financial support.

Ofwat called on water companies to be mindful of the pressures households are coming under from wider bills, and to make any support they offer easy to find, understand and access. It also said the research would inform its own plans to:

  • publish new guidelines for water companies in supporting residential customers to pay their bills, access help and repay debts.

  • develop a customer-focused licence condition to increase companies’ customer focus and incentivise the very best service for customers; and

  • continue to collect data on people’s financial circumstances and how they are managing with their household bills.

Chief executive of CCW, Emma Clancy, said the research “reinforces the urgent need for a new water affordability scheme that provides fair and consistent support for people who cannot afford their bills. There is a compelling case for ending the current postcode lottery of water bill support, which is why we’re working with Ofwat, government and water companies to bring about meaningful change.”


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