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24 November 20

Affinity Water wins praise for good practice from The Consumer Council for Water in new Vulnerability Manifesto

Affinity Water has been highlighted for its good practice in a new report from The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) in its Vulnerability Manifesto.

The report sets out a series of commitments to make sure more consumers get the right help at the right time from their water company.

Affinity Water received the following good practice mentions:

Good practice example:

“Affinity Water has a dedicated ‘Money Worries’ web page to help customers see the ways that the company has helped other customers who have had problems paying. This is in the form of different personas and each story outlines what the customers can expect from the company and encourages contact if they have concerns.”

Proactive contact:

“Several companies took steps to proactively contact customers in response to the pandemic to highlight their financial support options. Affinity Water sent text messages.”

Good practice for partnership working:

“Affinity Water has a partnership with the Money Advice Trust. Duel-branded web pages provide support for customers via debt advice, particularly focused on customers with debts with multiple creditors. Here customers can speak to an independent debt counsellor and receive help and support on income maximisation and expenditure. Affinity Water is also developing a partnership with Christians Against Poverty to help assess and place their clients on the most suitable social tariff without requiring an application from the customer.”

Building Trust:

“Affinity Water - The company has introduced a phone service through which customers who are on the PSR (Priority Services Register) are automatically routed to a VIP line when calling about an operational incident. During the period of high summer demand for water, the company was able to predict areas that may be affected by supply or pressure issues. Customers on the PSR in these affected areas were proactively called to let them know that they may be impacted and to check if they needed any support.”

Good practice within the sector:

“Affinity Water - PSR shared video. As part of the utility networks group, it has had access to a video ‘Lifelines – Introduction to Priority Services Register’. The company has this on its website and shared it via social media, as well as with its community partners. The company also sent proactive SMS messages to more than 400,000 customers linking to its Covid-19 page, to drive awareness of support for all customers.”

Delivering Social Good:

“Affinity Water – The company partnered with other utilities including UK Power Network and water companies to offer collective financial support to community foundations in the area where they operate. This has helped to make sure the funding quickly gets to where it can make the most impact in boosting community resilience, including local foodbanks, volunteer centres, food delivery services and outreach programmes for those at risk of isolation. The company’s CEO and Director of Customer Operations visited a group of customers in its supply area as part of a focus group and learned about the impact that Covid-19 has had on its communities. Topics covered included affordability, communications, water quality and brand awareness.”

More information about this help can be found at: on the Affinity Water website or through the dedicated National debt line webpage.

Already nearly 6,000 customers have been given the support they need while they struggle to pay their bills.

James Tipler Head of Billing and Debt Management for Affinity Water said:

“We welcome this new Vulnerability Manifesto from the Consumer Council for Water. It is a timely publication and one we have fed our good practices into. We are delighted that the CCW has singled our innovative practices for vulnerable consumers for praise in this way and hope that other water companies in the sector may learn from it as we in turn are studying their innovations and new practices.

“As many consumers in the Country experience financial difficulties as a result of the Coronavirus helping vulnerable people has been a top priority for Affinity Water and will be in 2021 as the longer-term financial impact is felt. I want to thank our staff for the many hours they have put into listening to our consumers and helping us to improve the services we offer to them when they are experiencing financial difficulties.”

Jake Rigg, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communities for Affinity Water said:

“Affinity Water staff are going the extra mile during the Coronavirus pandemic for our consumers and this new Vulnerability Manifesto from the Consumer Council for Water evidences just how important and innovative this work is. We are happy to share these good practices with other water companies and to learn more about their work too. The CCW Manifesto is the right report at the right time for water consumers. We are already studying the lessons we need to take from it and working on new processes to remedy these.

“It is vitally important that our services are accessible to all customers regardless of income and that is why we are putting more resources into reaching out to them. Money worries are foremost in people’s minds at the moment so we want to spread the word that they should get in touch with us as soon as they have money concerns rather than waiting until later. Our struggling to pay link on our website will tell them more.”

The CCW Manifesto considers the performance of water and sewerage companies in England and Wales in supporting customers facing financial vulnerability during 2019-20. It also examines the response to wider vulnerability and company efforts to ensure their services are accessible to all customers.

It can be downloaded here: Water for All,  Water Affordability and Vulnerability Report 2019-20

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