At Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions on Thursday Emma asked Secretary of State Owen Paterson to explain why the Government had not taken action to promote WaterSure, a scheme which allows some of the most vulnerable low income households to have their water bills capped.
WaterSure is available to people with three or more children living at home or who have specific medical conditions that require them to use extra water, and who claim certain income-related benefits. Households who qualify for WaterSure will have their bills capped at the average for their area. For constituents who believe they may be eligible for WaterSure, the water regulator Ofwat publishes full advice on its website.
At the moment just one third of households who qualify are taking advantage of the scheme. Labour tabled amendments to the Water Bill which would have required companies to display information about WaterSure prominently on their bills.
Emma asked the Secretary of State:
“The WaterSure scheme helps vulnerable households to pay their water bills, so will the Minister explain why he did not support Labour’s amendments to the Water Bill, which would have made information about WaterSure prominent on customers’ bills?”
The Secretary of State said that this should be left for companies to decide, and that “there is already a huge amount of information on bills, and there is a limit to the amount of information that can be given on one particular document.”
But as Emma pointed out, the low take-up rate of WaterSure suggests that many people are not aware of the scheme, meaning many vulnerable people are missing out on vital support. You can read Emma’s question on the official record by clicking here.
The cost of water has risen significantly in recent years – over 2 million UK households now spend more than 5% of their income on water. During parliamentary debates on the Water Bill, Emma spoke in favour of Labour’s plans for a National Affordability Scheme to bring costs down for the poorest customers. Unfortunately this call was rejected by the Coalition.