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Ofwat asks customers to share Covid-19 experiences

Ofwat has asked water customers to share their experiences of service during the pandemic to understand what additional support is needed.

The regulator has invited water companies and their customers as well as consumer organisations to submit examples of great experiences, areas that need more attention and the lessons that can be learnt from each.

The three core themes of the Listen Care Share conversation are financial vulnerability, mental wellbeing, and information inequality.

“There is no doubt how hard this past year has been and that the financial and social impact of Covid-19 will be long felt by customers across society. By understanding people’s needs and priorities through the pandemic we can make a positive difference for customers and communities,” interim Ofwat chief executive, David Black, said.

“We want to connect the many conversations already happening about how to listen to and care for customers during this time and share learning and best practice for the benefit of all water customers.”

Research by the Financial Conduct Authority found that in autumn 2020 more than a third of adults were in a worse financial situation because of the pandemic.

A report from Money and Mental Health Policy Institute showed that people experiencing mental health problems were three and a half times more likely to be debt.

Experiences relating to information inequality are being sought to find ways to support people without access to digital communications who may have struggled when in-person services were suspended in lockdown. Ofcom suggested that although the digital divide narrowed during the pandemic, around 1.5 million homes remain offline.

Ofwat has undertaken research to better under customer perspectives and is seeking input from the sector to develop the conversation around the impacts of the pandemic on society.

Emma Clancy, chief executive at CCW said it is vital to understand consumers’ experiences of the pandemic to ensure the water industry is supporting households through recovery.

She added: “Challenges of the magnitude we face demand that all of us in the water sector work together to learn from our successes, as well as our mistakes, so we can unite behind the best ways to ensure people have the support and advice they need – when they need it most.”