To help us understand how to quantify and increase our positive impact, we worked with impact measurement experts to assess the social impact of some of our current initiatives.
In 2014, we teamed up with StepChange Debt Charity, in a first for the water industry, to create a partnership to offer customers access to free, confidential debt advice and support. As the UK’s largest debt charity, StepChange is a natural partner to entrust with such important and often sensitive matters for our customers.
Last year the partnership saw more than 1,600 referrals to StepChange. These referrals allow us to understand better each customer’s financial situation and create an opportunity, and the time, for them to work with the charity to put together an action plan. StepChange gives advice on a range of issues, from debt to bankruptcy, and even has an online benefits calendar on its website. The personal impact this partnership has on people lives is paramount.
Our partnership runs alongside a range of support available directly through our team and is part of our award winning Water without the Worry campaign.
We are committed to understanding and improving our impact on society, so we conducted a social impact assessment of the benefit this partnership has to society.
The report describes their assessment of the social impact we are having through this partnership. Amongst other things, the report estimates that our partnership with StepChange created £300,000 for society in 2018, through potential for improved physical and mental wellbeing, employment and productivity, repayments to creditors, and improved financial management.
We encourage all readers to review the full report to understand their work and conclusions about the impact we are having through this important initiative.
We do also offer other help to customers on low incomes, and have an arrears write-off scheme, so it makes it even more impressive to see the additional value accrued from our partnership with StepChange – the ‘above and beyond’ aspect to our work.
We identified the expected social impacts from the partnership’s debt advice based on the published literature.
We identified two studies: Transforming Lives and The Economic Impact of Debt Advice of high relevance and took a conservative approach, only quantifying benefits where both studies agreed that they were well evidenced.
We used values from Transforming Lives and conducted sensitivity analysis to test the impact of using values from The Economic Impact of Debt Advice on our results.
We identified the number of beneficiaries based on data provided by Step Change to NWG on the number of referrals, their demographic characteristics, and the types of debt advice received.
Our estimate is likely to be conservative, because we do not include customers referred by NWG who use Step Change’s online debt tool due to data limitations, and we exclude customers who are not recommended a specific debt solution by Step Change. We also only focused on the demographic segments that have been identified by Transforming Lives as being of particular interest to Step Change.
We estimated an ‘outcomes adjustment factor’ for Step Change’s debt advice based on the findings of an outcomes study conducted by Step Change found that only certain groups change their debt situation for the better following initial advice sessions.
The underlying social benefit values identified in step 1 should - in principle - account for the extent to which advice leads to outcomes. However this adjustment factor helps give confidence that only advice that leads to a positive outcome is included. This results in a conservative estimate being calculated.
To estimate the social value from the Step Change partnership, we multiplied the value of benefits per beneficiary by the number of beneficiaries and the outcomes adjustment factor to estimate.
We conducted sensitivity analysis to test the impact of changing key assumptions on our results so that the reader can make their own informed decision about how to interpret the findings.
We conducted research on the potential long term impacts of this type of education and, based on this, to identify the potential benefits from the Powered by Water programme. The research assessed the potential benefits of Powered by Water and the level of evidence that is available to support these potential benefits.
While that report identifies some evidence to suggest benefits from the programme, including the avoided cost of type 2 diabetes at approximately £85,000 per case, it’s also clear to us that there is some way to go to demonstrate the lasting changes in behaviour that drive impact. For example whilst evidence from the academic literature suggests that the programme may produce a positive impact on children’s healthy drinking habits in the very short-term, it is unlikely to produce long-term effects when implemented in isolation, and the absence of data collection on outcomes means it is not possible to establish impact with certainty.