· Thames Water will become the largest charitable funder of free debt advice programme in the Thames Valley after the company doubles its Trust Fund investment to £1m this financial year (2020/21).
· Thames Water is committing £4m this financial year to its Customer Assistance Fund, to help customers pay off debts on their water bills.
· Flexible payment plans available for customers most in need due to coronavirus outbreak.
· WaterHelp social tariff extended to support 300,000 low income families with their water bills by 2025.
Thames Water will double its Trust Fund donation to £1 million to support customers who are in financial need during the coronavirus pandemic. The donation includes personal contributions from the company’s Chairman, Chief Finance Officer and various members of the executive leadership team.
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.
To further help customers affected by the coronavirus outbreak, Thames Water is providing flexible payment options and committing £4m this year to its Customer Assistance Fund, which provides one-off grants to help customers pay off arrears on their water bills.
The increase means Thames Water, which supplies water and waste services to 15 million people, will be the largest charitable funder of debt advice, within the Thames Valley region.
Kelly Macfarlane, Thames Water’s customer experience director, said: “Our essential service means we have an important role to play in supporting our communities and we want to make sure any family who has been financially hit by coronavirus has access to free debt advice and one-to-one counselling.
“By doubling our Trust Fund, we’ll be able to donate more to the debt advice providers we work closely with and help our customers who need extra support during these challenging times.”
Linda Perham, chair of the Thames Water Trust Fund, said: “We are delighted that Thames Water has generously doubled their donation to the Trust Fund so that we can provide more help and support to Thames Water customers coping with debt and disadvantage.
“It is particularly welcome in these challenging and uncertain times, when many people are experiencing financial difficulties, that their water company is demonstrating such care and consideration.
“We sincerely thank Thames Water for recognising the value of our work with this much-needed extra donation”.
The Trust Fund donation is just one of Thame Water’s new payment support measures which are available for customers who are struggling financially because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Thames Water has introduced a three-month flexible payment plan for those most in need and is encouraging households who are facing immediate or short-term issues with paying their bills, to get in contact so that they can receive help. This includes support for customers who:
· need to stop work without pay, to either self-isolate or take care of children or a vulnerable family member
· have been made redundant, or told to take unpaid leave or reduced pay for a period of time
Thames Water is also extending its WaterHelp social tariff, which supports households on low incomes.
The scheme offers eligible households a 50% discount on their water bill and currently supports 150,000 Thames Water customers. This will be doubled to 300,000 customers by 2025.
Kelly Macfarlane added: “Our customers rely on the water and services we provide every day and in this time of uncertainty, we’re here to help.
“We know some of our customers will have been significantly financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and we’ve launched flexible payment options and committed £4m towards our Customer Assistance Fund this year so we can help those most in need of support.
“With over 150,000 registered customers, our WaterHelp financial support scheme is currently the largest of its kind. We’re committed to providing options for customers who are worried about the cost of their bills and we’re extending this scheme to help 150,000 more customers by 2025.”
Thames Water has signed the COVID-19 Business Pledge, which encourages businesses and universities to be a force for good by making a commitment to doing what they can to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Thames Water is also one of eight utility networks who have teamed up to give a £500,000 boost to local community foundations during the coronavirus pandemic.
Further information about payment support options during the coronavirus outbreak, the Thames Water Trust Fund, Customer Assistance Fund and WaterHelp can be found on the Thames Water website: https://www.thameswater.co.uk/support