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Calls for more support for water customers

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) has renewed its calls for financial support for struggling water customers.

The CCW said there was a “postcode lottery” regarding support for households struggling to afford their water bills. It called for a new universal water affordability scheme to provide “fair, consistent and sustainable financial help” for the 1.5 million households across England and Wales living in water poverty.

The call comes as the water watchdog’s annual Water Matters report revealed a steep rise among the unemployed, students and disabled customers, who say their water bill is unaffordable.

Just over a third of billpayers who took part in the survey said their finances had got worse during the past year, as the cost of living crisis continues to deepen and with the prospect of further inflation-busting energy bill rises looming this autumn.

CCW has been working with the water sector as part of its independent review of water affordability to bring immediate relief to struggling households through a raft of changes. These include making it easier for customers to access help and providing more flexible payment options.

The watchdog is campaigning for the introduction of a new single social tariff scheme that would provide fair and consistent support for low-income households.

The universal scheme would replace the patchwork of individual water company social tariffs, which remain hampered by funding constraints and regional variations in eligibility criteria.

Dr Mike Keil, senior director at CCW, said: “Many people are feeling the pressure on their budgets from soaring costs but our report suggests it is leaving some of the most vulnerable households in a perilous position.”

“We don’t want something as essential as water adding to people’s worries, which is why it’s vital the sector and ministers accelerate efforts to introduce a new water affordability scheme that will provide meaningful and sustainable support to those that need it most.”

CCW’s latest survey findings show about one in 10 households currently consider their water bill to be unaffordable. That rises to around one in five among the unemployed, students and households with a disabled occupant.

Thames Water pulled the plug on offering free water saving devices earlier this month. Previously the company offered devices such as water saving taps and shower heads free of charge to customers completing its water savings calculator.

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