Little-known way households on Universal Credit can get up to £400 – are you eligible? | The SunJune 7, 2023
HOUSEHOLDS on Universal Credit can get up to £400 to help towards paying essential bills.
Watersure is a little-known scheme that can help some struggling households with their water bills.
The scheme puts a cap on bills for low-income customers regardless of how much water they're using.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) estimates that bills are reduced by £300 on average through the scheme.
But the amount you could save does vary in reality from as little as £10 to as much as £400 a year.
What is the WaterSure Scheme?
The WaterSure Scheme is designed to help households who use a lot of water and are on low incomes, to have their bills capped.
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It could be that water usage is high due to medical reasons, or because there are a number of school-age children in the house.
The amount that you will save will vary as bills are typically capped at the average amount for your supplier.
The idea of the scheme is to stop customers from cutting back on the amount of water they use because they are worried about paying their bills.
Unlike energy companies, you cannot switch water supplier as it is dependent on the area you live.
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Are you eligible?
There is a number of criteria you must meet in order to be eligible for the WaterSure scheme.
To qualify you will need to already have a water meter installed, and you will need to prove you use a lot of water.
You need to have three or more children under the age of 19 living in the house, and receive child benefit for them.
Or someone living in the house must have a medical condition that means you need lots of water, such as skin diseases like psoriasis, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
You will also need to be receiving one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Pension Credit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Some water suppliers also offer WaterSure if you're on Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments.
You won't qualify if you use a garden sprinkler system or have a pool.
How do you apply for WaterSure?
If you live in England, you will need to apply for the scheme from your water supplier.
The name of your provider will be printed on your bills, but you can also check by entering your postcode on Water UK's website.
In Wales, you need to contact WaterSure Wales.
What other help is there?
If you are struggling to pay any bill, not just water,it is always best to contact your supplier as soon as possible.
Ignoring your bill will only make things worse.
Here are some other methods that could help you if you are struggling or claiming benefits.
Social tariffs: Lots of water suppliers have special rates to help families on low incomes.
How much you could save depends on your supplier, and the help provided also varies between companies.
For example, some companies will offer a range of reductions depending on your specific circumstances, while other providers offer a flat rate reduction.
Some suppliers will carry out individual financial assessments to work out what support you can get, while others offer reduced rates for households whose income is below a certain specified level.
You can see what your water company offers and the rules for applying on the CCW website.
Adjusted payment plans: If you find that your circumstances change you could speak to your provider about adjusting your payment plan.
If your income has suddenly dropped it could mean you'll pay less for a set period of time until you get your finances in order again.
Again, the help on offer varies between companies and they don't have to change your payments.
Search for free grants: Some low-income families might also be eligible for a charitable fund to help pay for their water bill.
Most grants do not have to be paid back, but check the terms and conditions of what you're being offered carefully.
The help available to you will largely depend on your personal circumstances, background and needs.
Use the Turn2us grants search tool to look for grants by entering "water" as a keyword.
Payment holidays: If you find that you are unable to pay your bill, you might want to consider getting a payment holiday.
It means you don't need to pay the bill now, but you'll still be liable to pay it in future so keep in mind your balance will grow over time.
How long your payment break will last depends on your provider and individual circumstances.
Contact your supplier to discuss your options.
Payment matching: Some water suppliers offer a payment matching scheme.
These schemes are helpful if you are already in arrears.
For instance, if you pay £5 towards your outstanding debt some water companies will also pay £5 – essentially doubling your repayment.
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Both Thames Water and United Utilities will match any money you pay towards your water debt, pound for pound.
You'll usually need to pay your current water bill, as well as making an affordable payment towards your debt each month.
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