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Westward and South West Water join forces to help customers out of water debt

Westward and South West Water join forces to help customers out of water debt

Westward Housing Group and South West Water (SWW) are delighted to tell their customers that their partnership water affordability project will continue into 2019 as funding is extended following significant savings for customers.

Westward joined forces with SWW earlier this year to pilot a scheme to help customers avoid getting into deep water when it comes to debt.

A combination of increased income and reduced bills has helped lift many households out of water poverty through the project, with increases in income of around £60 a week for some households.

The scheme is proving so successful that additional funding has now been approved to extend the pilot by six months to March 2019. 

SWW funded the pilot to provide affordable water tariff advice and support with water debt. This included a fixed-term contract for a Water Financial Inclusion Officer, who has been working with Westward’s income team to help identify the customers most at risk of water debt in our communities. 

The officer has been supporting customers in accessing affordable tariffs such as South West Water’s WaterSure or WaterCare which offers reduced payments for customers on certain benefits and low incomes.

Not only has the scheme proved successful in supporting customers with SWW tariffs, but has also proved effective in advising tenants of additional benefits and help with other debts too.

One resident the project helped had a debt of £700 and had been confused by the forms she received from SWW. A home visit was arranged and she revealed that although she was managing with other costs, she was struggling with her SWW debt, which was increasing.

The tenant was helped with the process and has been accepted for WaterSure tariff and a referral for a FreshStart grant has been made to help with her arrears, she has also registered for priority services.

At the end of the appointment she said that she felt “as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders”.

The next 6 months will see Water Financial Inclusion Officer, Kay Khan, trained to provide the same level of support to customers in vulnerable circumstances as a SWW WaterCare Advisor, with access to the WaterCare App to better support people with applications in their own homes.