Low average incomes, combined with the impact of the Government’s welfare reforms, mean that a sizeable number of customers in our region have found paying their water bills more difficult. For example, we have seen an increasing number of customers spreading their payments or going on extended payment plans, as household budgets have become tighter.
We don’t want to leave our customers struggling, especially when there is a genuine desire to pay, so we continue to improve and expand our package of assistance for customers in financial difficulty.
We have a range of tailored schemes to ease the financial burden, and a dedicated outreach worker to raise customer awareness of the support available including:
The United Utilities Trust Fund: managed by independent trustees, this fund provides grants for those customers who are in severe financial hardship, allowing them to get back on an even footing. The initiative is funded partly by our company, and partly by contribution from customers through their water bills. Our evidence shows that 70 per cent of customers helped through the Trust Fund continue to pay their bills 12 months later.
Payment Matching Plus scheme: an opportunity for our customers to clear their water bill debts more quickly. For the first six months of the scheme, for every £1 that a customer contributes to their debt, we also put in £1. After six months, we match every £1 paid with a £2 contribution. Then, if the customer continues to make regular payments, we'll clear any remaining debt after two years.
Back on Track tariff: a means-tested tariff with customers allocated to one of six charging bands depending on their individual circumstances.
WaterSure: a financial support scheme designed for customers with water meters who receive benefits and have a large family or have a member of the household with a medical condition that requires the use of large amounts of water.
Help to Pay: customers receiving Pension Credit and struggling with their payments can apply to have their bills capped at an affordable amount based on their income and outgoings.
Payment Break: customers who are struggling with their water bill payments due to losing their job or having to pay out for an unexpected household emergency can apply to delay their bill payments for an agreed period of time.
Universal Credit support: we can delay water bill payments for up to eight weeks for those customers who are waiting for their first Universal Credit payment to arrive.
Local Authority Discount tariff: we have several collection agreements in place with local authorities and housing associations in the region. For tenants who pay their bills via this method, we provide a £10 reduction in their annual bills to reflect the lower administration costs of these arrangements.