First Customer Vulnerability Summit brings North West agencies together to champion a joined-up approach to supporting people in need

25 Nov 2022

The importance of a joined-up approach in supporting vulnerable people across the North West of England was the focus of the first United Utilities Customer Vulnerability Summit last week.

The region’s water company runs a Priority Services scheme to help vulnerable customers, and has seen a significant increase in registrations this year. From April to September 2022, some 70,249 customers registered to join the scheme, compared to 17,174 registrations in the same period of 2021 – that’s a 309% increase.

Taking place in Runcorn, the Customer Vulnerability Summit brought together charities, disability groups, local authorities, support organisations, and community associations to encourage the sharing of ideas and examples, with a view to enhancing partnership working to better support vulnerable people across the region.

Amanda Phillips, Dave Thompson and Chantelle DayAmong the speakers were Michelle Mather - Priority Services Manager at United Utilities; Amanda Phillips, Priority Services and Partnerships Engagement Lead at United Utilities; Dave Thompson - Chief Executive at Warrington Disability Partnership and Chair of United Utilities’ Affordability and Vulnerability Panel; and Chantelle Day - Community Fundraiser at Alzheimer’s Society. Afternoon breakout sessions were led by United Utilities staff from across its customer, billing, affordability, metering, and water efficiency teams.

United Utilities supports around 266,000 customers through its Priority Services scheme, which offers a range of additional help from nominating a trusted person to help with an account, to delivering bottled water in the event of a loss of supply. The free service is open to all customers who would benefit from extra support whether due to age, ill health, disability, mental health problems, financial worries or language barriers.

As part of the scheme, thousands of customers receive their bills in alternative formats. Some 267 Braille bills are produced, 9,428 in large print, 191 on coloured paper, and 369 ‘talking bills’ are issued.

Financial support is also available from United Utilities for those struggling with their bills, with more than 200,000 customers being supported through the company’s affordability schemes.

Amanda Phillips, Priority Services and Partnerships Engagement LeadAmanda Phillips, Priority Services and Partnerships Engagement Lead at United Utilities at United Utilities, said: “We’ve seen a clear increase in the number of people needing support over the past year, and we’re proud to offer so many ways to help our customers through Priority Services.

“We know that other agencies across the region have similar services, so hosting our first Customer Vulnerability Summit has allowed us to bring everyone together and understand how we can be better joined up.

“It was a really successful day that showcased just how much support is available for people who are struggling, no matter what their circumstances. Bringing these different agencies together in one place allowed us all to share our ideas and experiences, and consider what more we can do to help vulnerable people across our region.”

Dave Thompson MBEDave Thompson MBE, Chief Executive at Warrington Disability Partnership and Chair of United Utilities’ Affordability and Vulnerability Panel, added: “Events like this are right up my street. The messages are really powerful.

“It’s about trying to educate people, get people more aware of the problems and the barriers faced by vulnerable people, and so they know about the solutions that United Utilities have got.”

To find out more about the support available from United Utilities and register for Priority Services, visit:

Customer Vulnerability Summit 2022