Suffering in silence: Families cutting food budgets to pay water bills – because they don’t know help is available

Desperate families finding it hard to keep their head above water are missing out on crucial financial assistance from water companies – because they don’t realise help is available.

The water watchdog, the Consumer Council for Water, revealed today that many families suffer in silence and cut their food budgets, rather than seek help with paying their water bills.

This is despite an increased willingness from water companies to offer a helping hand to those who need it most with practical and financial aid.

Andy White, senior policy manager at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “One in five water customers now tell us their water bill is not affordable – compared to one in eight last year.

“Customers who are struggling to pay should get in touch with their water company as soon as possible.

“CCWater has helped ensure the number of customers signing up for assistance has increased, but it’s still not enough.

The water industry should make it a priority to ensure customers know this help is available, and how to get it.”

The report also found people on very limited budgets tend to cope by cutting back all areas – even on items deemed ‘essential’ like food, and replacing what they do buy with cheaper quality goods.

Thames Water offers the national WaterSure scheme as well as their own WaterSure Plus to provide a 50% discount on bills for qualifying low-income customer.

Stuart White, a spokeperson for Thames Water told SWLondoner: “We’re very aware of the need to support our most vulnerable customers, which is why this year we launched a new social tariff and committed an additional £10 million to our Customer Assistance Fund.

“Our average household bill is among the lowest in the country and last year we cleared the arrears of 3,500 customers who came to us and told us they were struggling.

“We worked with them to set up affordable payment plans, helping those customers to keep out of debt. For many others we make a donation towards their arrears to help keep their payments manageable.”

Picture courtesy of Anders Adermark, with thanks

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