As the cost of living bites, Thames Water has announced increased financial support for customers to a value of £110m this financial year, which combined with funds committed in 2024-2025 will amount to £240m. This means an additional 53,000 households will receive financial help to pay their water bill from April, taking the total number to 384,000 households.
With recent improvements made to their social tariff ‘WaterHelp’ in December last year, plus the roll out of an additional support scheme for customers who haven’t traditionally struggled in the past, Thames Water will ensure widespread benefit for households across London and the Thames Valley.
By bringing forward the change in eligibility criteria from April 2023 to December 2022, Thames Water has already begun helping customers suffering the pressures of the current rise in inflation. Those households earning below £17,005 in the Thames Valley or £21,749 in London boroughs are eligible for a 50 per cent bill reduction. This was increased from £16,480 in the Thames Valley and £21,111 in London.
Later this year, Thames Water will introduce an additional means for customers to access support via WaterHelp, targeted at those customers whose bill is a high proportion of their household income. The threshold is a bill that is greater than 5% of a household’s net, equivalised, income. This will broaden support to include more households with larger occupancy, potentially helping an estimated additional 15,000 families during 2023-24.
In specific response to the rise in inflation, the company has created a new temporary support scheme for those on a deficit budget driven by the increase in household costs. This scheme will support those customers who, due to the cost of living crisis, have zero disposable income. This scheme will provide a bill discount in the region of 25-50% for one year and will be rolled out in the Spring. An estimated additional 10,000 customers could benefit from a typical £200 reduction by accessing this new scheme.
Existing measures in place, such as the WaterSure scheme, support those customers who are in receipt of a means tested benefit and on a water meter but who find it difficult to save water due to having a large family or a water dependent medical condition. Those customers can already qualify for a price cap.
Additionally, the independent Thames Water Trust Fund, which is funded by the company’s shareholders, provides grants to third sector organisations, such as Citizens Advice Bureau, who offer Thames Water customers long-term support and free debt advice. It also provides grants for essential household goods, including washing machines, fridges and beds, to customers whose long-term circumstances suggest they will not be able to afford these items.
Nina White, Director of Financial Customer Care at Thames Water, said: “Our job is to provide life’s essential services. We know the cost of living is taking its toll and with the rise in inflation more of our customers will be struggling to pay their utility bills. We’ve made changes to our existing social tariff, WaterHelp and created a new scheme to specifically help more customers who require additional support due to bills outstripping the money coming in.
“The Thames Water Extra Care team is on hand to advise customers of their options and can help them make the best decisions for them regarding their bill. We urge customers to get in touch and together we can help them work out a sustainable payment plan.
“Together with schemes such as WaterSure and the Thames Water Trust Fund, we are increasing support to thousands more customers this year and into 2025.”
Thames Water recently launched an online Income and Expenditure (I&E) review form. This is hosted by Paylink, part of the independent, free, debt advice organisation PayPlan and provides an integrated way for customers to assess their options, easily understand their eligibility for support propositions and accept a payment plan in a single interaction.