Help for cash-strapped water customers

September 24, 2007 at 2:46 am

Ofwat, the Water Services Regulation Authority, has recently announced that the number of people getting help with their water bill had risen significantly in 2006-07. More and more customers are receiving financial assistance from the WaterSure scheme, which was introduced in 2000 by the Government. The arrangement, previously known as the Vulnerable Groups Scheme, helps metered customers on a low income to pay for their water usage by capping bills. With “water poverty” on the increase in Britain, more households are applying for help each year.

WaterSure is available to anyone in England and Wales who is responsible for three or more children under the age of 19 or has a medical condition which necessitates higher than average water consumption. To be eligible, the individual or household must be on a metered supply and must also be receiving one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income based Jobseeker’s allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefits
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (not families who only qualify for family element)
  • Pension Credit

A household qualifying for help under WaterSure pays the average household bill for the region, and does not have to make any contribution towards the extra water which is required by a larger family and/or a medical condition.

Over 16,000 households successfully applied for financial assistance during 2006-07, up 23% on the previous year. Ofwat also reported an increase in the number of elderly and disabled customers who sought help with water and sewerage services – up from 82,800 in 2005-06 to around 90,000 in 2006-07. The assistance for these vulnerable groups is not necessary financial – services include schemes to deter bogus callers, repositioning of meters for easier access and the provision of large-print or Braille bills and literature for customers with visual impairment.

Andrew Dunn, Director of Consumer Protection at Ofwat, was pleased with the increase in the uptake of these schemes. However, he urged the many eligible customers who are not benefiting from the schemes to get in touch with their water company. “I would encourage any customer who thinks that they may qualify for a reduced bill under the WaterSure scheme or who needs a specialised service to contact their water company. These schemes are there to help customers.

Am I eligible for the scheme?
If you think you qualify for help, contact your water company, who will be able to provide you with further details. Many providers have online application forms which can be completed and submitted via their website. You will need to provide information about benefits you receive, other members of your household, and your medical condition if you are applying on these grounds. You may also be ineligible if you use a lot of water for non-essential purposes, such as maintaining a swimming pool or using a sprinkler system in your garden. Alternatively, you can download a flowchart from the Consumer Council for Water which will help you quickly check your eligibility.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *