Thursday 17 October is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In the UK there are currently eight million people who do not have means for a decent standard of living. Eleven million more are so far below what they need they are likely to be living in poverty.
Water industry regulator Ofwat estimates that as few as 10 percent of customers who are struggling, receive help from their water company.
Northumbrian Water, which provides sewerage and drinking water services to just under 4.4 million people across the north east of England, is committed to eradicating all water poverty by 2030 and will achieve this by making sure all of its services are inclusive and affordable for all.
There are a variety of services available to help customers in need of a little extra support. Recognising that customers in water poverty are likely to face greater financial challenges, the company works with StepChange Debt Charity to offer all-round support - not just lifting them out of water poverty but also finding solutions to overcome the challenges of debt.
Northumbrian Water may be able to help you if someone in a household receives certain benefits or tax credits. Those with a medical condition that involves high water use or household with three or more children under the age of 19 may qualify for the WaterSure scheme, which places a cap on an annual water bill.
The water company also provides a wide range of free Priority Services to suit customers′ needs free of charge, this includes things like:
• Bills and literature in Braille, large print, audio and Easyread
• An alternative supply of water if there is an extended unplanned interruption and customers have a certain medical condition or mobility challenges
• A password scheme to protect against anyone trying to get into their house pretending to be from Northumbrian Water or the ‘water board′
• A free meter reading service for those who are unable to read their meter themselves
• Arranging for a customer′s bill to be sent to a relative or friend that they trust and who has agreed to help.
They can also offer a discount of up to 50% where the annual household income is less than £16,105, and the water bill is 3% or more of the annual net household income.
Claire Sharp, Customer Director of Northumbrian Water said "Water services should be affordable for all of our customers whatever their circumstances and we′re committed to making this happen. In May 2018, we made a commitment to eradicate water poverty in our supply areas by 2030. We were the first in the water industry to do so, leading the way to make a real difference to the lives of our customers.
"We are committed to helping customers in need. By adding more partnerships to our support networks, creating mutual financial and social benefits for our customers. Our partnership with national charity National Energy Action (NEA) is ground breaking and will nurture greater collaboration and inclusivity between the water and energy sectors."
Adam Scorer, Chief Executive for National Energy Action said "NEA is proud to be working with Northumbrian Water Group to eradicate water poverty by 2030. This programme draws upon our relevant experience in tackling fuel poverty to help the water sector move quickly and with purpose toward eradication. We bring our focus on energy efficiency to our work on water poverty. This is crucial given its impact on both water and energy bills. To really make a difference, we need to do more than just agree on the challenge and the context. We need to deliver practical projects which involve partnerships with water companies, energy networks, housing associations, local authorities and more. Our partnership with NWG is just the start, but it's an important step towards eradicating water poverty."
If you think you could benefit from free debt advice, a discounted or Social Tariff, or know if a family member, friend or neighbour, whose life would be made that little bit easier with some support, visit www.nwl.co.uk/supportplus