Economy / 4th January 2021

What can you do if you’re struggling with your water bill?

Is there help available?

Don't get sunk with water bills

If you’re on a water meter but struggle to pay your bills because you’re on benefits, have three or more children or have a medical condition which means you have to use a lot of water, you may qualify for the Watersure scheme, which you can find information about on the Ofwat website and which used to be called the Vulnerable Household Scheme.

SAVVY TIP: Watersure is offered by all water companies operating in England. Water companies in Wales have introduced a similar scheme. In Scotland, water bills are based on your council tax band and if you qualify for help with council tax you’ll get help with your water bill.

Who qualifies for Watersure?

If you go on the Watersure scheme, it means you won’t pay more than the average household bill in your water company’s area. In order to qualify for Watersure scheme you have to receive one of the following benefits:

  • council tax benefit
  • universal credit
  • housing benefit
  • income support
  • income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • income related employment and support allowance
  • working tax credit
  • child tax credit (unless you only receive the family element)
  • pension credit.

You also either have to be responsible for three children aged under 19 in full time education or have, (or have someone living with you who has) one of a range of medical condition (such as Crohn’s disease, incontinence, ulcerative colitis) which means you need to use more water.

SAVVY TIP: If you don’t have one of the specified conditions but have another illness or condition that means you (or someone in your household) need to use a lot of water, get a doctor’s certificate to say this and you may qualify for the Watersure scheme.

How to register
You should contact your own water company directly to see if you qualify. Customers of Welsh Water may qualify for a similar scheme called Watersure Wales.

SAVVY TIP: You can read a guide to Watersure on the Consumer Council for Water’s site.

Charitable Trust funds

According to Lee Healey of IncomeMax, some water companies have charitable trusts that can pay off arrears if you’re in debt to your water company.

Find out what help is available from your water company by contacting it direct.

Affinity Water supplies north west London and parts of the home counties. It can offer some help if you’re struggling to pay your water bills. It also has a low income fixed tariff, which you may be eligible for if you’re on a low income or certain benefits. You can find more information about both these options on Affinity Water’s website.
Anglian Water supplies six million homes in East Anglia and the East Midlands. It has a Financial assistance fund. It says that the fund cannot help everyone who applies.

Northumbrian Water has a range of options if you’re struggling to pay your bill. It also works closely with StepChange debt charity.

Severn Trent Water has its own scheme called the Severn Trent Trust fund.

Thames Water has a scheme called the Thames Water trust fund to help people in arrears.

Yorkshire water has a range of measures to help customers pay their bills .

SAVVY TIP: A number of water companies have ‘restart schemes’ designed to help people in arrears but who are able to pay off some of their debts. For every £ of your debt that you pay off, the water company will write off the equivalent amount. It’s well worth asking about.

Tariffs if you’re on a low income

If you don’t qualify for the Watersure scheme, you may still be eligible for a lower tariff if you’re on a water meter. For example, Anglian Water runs Aquacare plus, which is aimed at people on benefits but you don’t have to suffer from a medical condition or have three children under the age of 19 (which you do for Watersure).

Would a water meter save you money?

If you’re not on a meter you may be able to save money by switching to one. It all depends on the size of your home, how many live there and how much water you use. In theory it shouldn’t cost you anything to have a water meter but you may have to pay for pipework to be carried out or to have the meter fitted in a particular place.

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