United Utilities urges customers to reach out for help this Debt Awareness Week

As Debt Awareness Week starts today (Monday 20th March), United Utilities is encouraging anyone struggling to pay their household bills not to struggle in silence but to reach out for help.

The company expects to help more than 200,000 people across the region with their water bill during 2023/24, and says no one should be missing out as all it takes is a phone call or an online form to find out what assistance is available.

Mike Gauterin, Customer Services Director at United Utilities, said: “We know that many people are struggling during the ongoing cost of living crisis with bills and household expenses continuing to rise.

“Although we have been able to keep the increase in water bills for 2023/24 below inflation we know that this still has an impact on household budgets that are already stretched, so we want to let customers know that there are ways we can help.

“Over the past few years we’ve continually enhanced our support schemes, and now we have an industry-leading package worth £280 million that is giving people the assistance they so urgently need.

“From flexible payment options or taking a payment break, to capping bills or providing grants, we have a range of support available, and it takes just one phone call or online form to start the ball rolling.

“Debt Awareness Week is an opportunity to remind people that we are here to help, and to be part of open conversations around debt so that people feel able to get in touch.”

United Utilities’ support schemes cover:

  • Lowest Bill Guarantee – provides assurance to customers for two years while they trial a meter that they will never pay more than their unmeasured bill. More than 90% of customers who switch save on a meter.
  • Bill capping through Help to Pay, Back on Track and Water Sure schemes – for households in receipt of Pension Credit, benefits, or on a meter with high water use, such as because of a medical condition. There are more than 183,000 customers benefiting from capped bills.
  • Payment Matching – for every £1 a customer pays off their water bill debt, the company pays the same, and that rises to £2 after 12 months if the customer commits to regular payments. This has helped 7,000 people clear their water bill debts since April 2022.
  • PayAsUGo – offers flexible payments for those who do not have a regular income.
  • Payment Breaks - breathing space for customers experiencing a change in circumstances/life event meaning they will temporarily struggle to pay their bill.
  • The United Utilities Trust Fund - an independent grant making body which has approved more than 68,000 grants since it was formed in 2005.

United Utilities is also helping people better understand their finances so they can get back in control, and showing what simple steps can be taken to reduce bills.

“We’re supplementing the acute financial support with bills with more long-term education and awareness through our partners across the region, so that once people are on their way out of debt, they have the knowledge and tools to help them stay that way,” Mike explains.

“We’re also raising awareness of water efficiency and how simple changes can reduce water use. This can help bring other bills down too – around 16% of energy bills come from heating water – but people often don’t realise this.

“We encourage anyone who is currently or may soon be struggling to pay their water bills to get in touch. There’s no judgment, and we’ll do all we can to help.”

To find out more about the financial support that United Utilities offers, call the Affordability Team on 0800 072 6765 or visit: www.unitedutilities.com/my-account/your-bill/difficulty-paying-your-bill/