If you are in receipt of state benefits then there is some financial help available to you, in the form of social tariffs.
A Social Tariff is a new concept in the UK and very few people are familiar with them. In short, if you are receiving Universal Credit or some state pensions, or a few other benefits, then you are eligible to receive a reduced monthly price on your utilities. This includes your water bills – but it can also mean on your broadband or energy (gas//electricity).
You can check your eligibility here to see if you can reduce the cost of your water bills.
CCWater have a helpful page if you are unsure if you can afford your water bills.
In short, there is often help available, you just need to find it. Here is a summary of the help systems in place to safeguard you:
On this page
This type of scheme can reduce debt if customers stick to a payment plan. Eligible customers will need to make payments against a pre-agreed payment plan set by the water company. If the customer does this then after a time period set by the water company, their debt will be reduced.
Grants (provided by independent trust schemes)
Some companies have trust funds that can help customers clear their debts and start afresh. Grants can be awarded to help with water debt or other financial difficulties. Each independent trust company has its own eligibility criteria.
Flexible payment plans
Water companies can offer flexible payment plans (weekly, fortnightly or monthly) and in some cases can offer ‘payment holidays’ to help customers through short-term financial difficulties. Contact your water company directly to discuss available options.
Water Direct – am I eligible?
Working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), this scheme offers the customer the option to pay water and sewerage charges through their benefits if they are already in debt with their company. This is similar to the Social Tariff system:
Eligibility for Water Direct
You can apply for Water Direct if you or anyone you live with gets any of the following State benefits:
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment Support Allowance
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
This are for Severn Trent however each utility company may have different requirements.
What do I do if I cannot afford my water bill?
Another option is Watersure. Use this easy flow chart to see if you qualify or keep reading for more details.
Although many households benefit from having a water meter, some may struggle to pay metered water bills because they need to use large amounts of water. Certain metered household customers are protected from paying large water bills under a government scheme called Watersure.
If your household is eligible then your water bill will be capped at the average household water bill for your water company. In the cases of Wessex Water and Bristol Water, the companies will cap the bill at the average metered bill level which is lower.
Do I qualify for Watersure?
In order to qualify for this capped bill you, or someone resident in your household, will need to be in receipt of one of the following benefits:
- universal credit;
- housing benefit;
- income support;
- income-based jobseeker’s allowance;
- income-related employment and support allowance
- working tax credit;
- the child tax credit (except families in receipt of the family element only); and
- pension credit.
You will then also need to either:
- be in receipt of child benefit for 3 or more children under 19 living in the household or
- have, (or have someone living with you who has) one of the following medical conditions:
- desquamation, (flaky skin loss);
- weeping skin disease, (eczema, psoriasis, varicose ulceration);
- abdominal stoma;
- Crohn’s disease;
- ulcerative colitis, or
- renal failure requiring dialysis at home (where there is no contribution by the local health authority for the cost of the water used).
And as a result of that condition the person affected is obliged to use a significant additional volume of water.
Additionally, where a doctor certifies (by the provision of a certificate) that you, or someone living with you need to use a significant amount of additional water because of any other medical condition you may qualify for the capped bill.
What are the exemptions?
This tariff is not available to metered customers who choose to use a lot of water in eg, garden sprinklers or swimming pools. Whilst Watersure only applies to companies operating wholly or mainly in England, the two companies operating in Wales have introduced equivalent tariffs on a voluntary basis.
If you believe you are eligible for Watersure or its equivalent in Wales your next step is to contact your water company for an application form.
Last but not least, Citizens Advice have put together a suitable page here.