The UK and Welsh Governments have ordered a major independent review into the support currently on offer to water customers in financial hardship.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has launched a call for evidence into existing assistance schemes in a bid to provide stronger support for householders who are struggling to afford their water bills.
It will work with organisations from across industry and beyond to identify new opportunities to make sure households in financially vulnerable circumstances get the help they need.
While the water industry has taken significant strides towards tackling water poverty over the last decade, with more than 900,000 households now receiving ongoing help through reduced water bills and payment breaks, funding of this support falls short of addressing the scale of the problem and will be stretched even further as more people suffer financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the main sources of support has come through social tariff schemes, which can substantially reduce bills of low income households, however, such schemes rely heavily on other customers’ willingness to fund them.
CCWater Chair Robert Light said: “Financial help for struggling water customers was in danger of running dry even before COIVD-19 so the time is ripe for us to explore how we can put in place fair and sustainable long term support.
“We will work with other organisations during the review to look at how we can build on the progress that has been made and make much deeper inroads into reducing water poverty.”
CCWater is inviting views from individuals and organisations on the changes that need to be made to improve the support for households as part of its call for evidence, which will close on 15th December 2020.
UK Environment Minister Rebecca Pow added: “We are proud of the legislation we introduced for water companies to assist households with their water bills. However, we recognise that some consumers may still struggle to get the help they need.
“In these challenging times we must support the water sector and ensure that customers, particularly those who are most vulnerable, receive reliable water services. I therefore welcome this review and look forward to CCW’s recommendations on how we can work with water companies to effectively deliver support to those who need it.”
CCWater will present its findings and recommendations in Spring 2021.