Households across Sussex, Kent and Hampshire are better off by a total of £2 million in unclaimed benefits, tax credits and water bill support thanks to Southern Water.
In 2010, the water company began a five-year programme to install nearly 500,000 water meters across the South East. The metering programme was introduced to secure water resources for the future and create a fairer charging system.
However, to ensure water bills remain affordable for everyone, particularly those customers in genuine financial difficulty, Southern Water introduced the Support Tariff and linked up with financial support service, IncomeMAX and environmental charity, Groundwork.
IncomeMAX is an independent organisation which advises individuals what benefits they are entitled to. Since 2010, it has helped 1,690 Southern Water customers to secure, on average, £1,183 each in benefits and tax credits they did not know they were entitled to.
In one particular instance, a self-employed, single mother of three was advised by IncomeMAX that she was paying too much Council Tax. She was also notified that she was entitled to, and not claiming, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax credit. The family is now £20,485 better off a year.
The IncomeMAX service also helps some customers by signing them up to Southern Water’s Support Tariff, which is designed for customers who genuinely cannot afford to pay their metered water bill.
As well as financial advice customers benefitting from the Support Tariff are also provided with a free energy audit carried out by a Groundwork representative, known as a Green Doctor.
The Green Doctors install free water efficiency devices such as tap aerators in customers’ homes to help them save water, energy and money. Since 2010, more than 31,000 Southern Water customers have benefitted from this service.
Brenda Edwards, Customer Engagement Manager for Southern Water, said: “Southern Water is really proud of the partnership we have with IncomeMAX and Groundwork, supporting our customers to ensure they receive the relevant financial and water efficiency advice.”
“Knowing that we have secured £2 million extra income for customers is a fantastic achievement, we look forward to continuing the great work of IncomeMAX and Groundwork.”
Lee Healey, IncomeMAX Managing Director, added: “IncomeMAX is delighted to have found more than £2 million of unclaimed income, benefits and water bill help for Southern Water customers.”
“The service is helping customers in so many ways, especially with navigating the tricky welfare system and by advising on the various water bill schemes that exist.”
“Water bill affordability is such an important issue and this service is helping Southern Water customers get the financial help they need.”
The financial savings made are particularly significant considering that in 2010 IncomeMAX were set with the target of securing £1 million for Southern Water customers by 2015. With a year left of the programme the company has already doubled this figure.
As well as the Support Tariff, Southern Water also introduced the Changeover Tariff. This tariff is available to all customers whose bills increase and introduces the metering price rise over a three year period giving customers time to adjust to the changes.
To date, Southern Water has fitted more than 333,000 water meters across Sussex, Kent and Hampshire and so far, 60 per cent of households which have received a metered bill have experienced a decrease averaging £12 a month.
For more information about Southern Water’s tariffs visit www.yourwatermeter.co.uk or call the metering contact centre on 0333 2003 014.