A new initiative by the water and energy sectors has been set up to ensure more customers get the right help when they need it.
Announced today (24 October) by Water UK and Energy Networks Association (ENA), the scheme aims to improve the process for customers signing up to the Priority Service Register (PSR) – a free service provided by utility companies.
Customers in a vulnerable situation will be able to register once to get help instead of having to provide details to multiple utility companies.
Water UK said water companies provide more than £40 million worth of help to customers in vulnerable circumstances each year.
It explained the sector is now looking to build on the work carried out by energy companies, who already share information with each other to provide more tailored services to customers.
The scheme will be piloted in January 2018 in parts of North West England covered by United Utilities and Electricity North West.
It will include water and sewerage providers in the service as part of the same scheme as energy providers, with the aim of rolling out the scheme nationwide by 2020.
Michael Roberts, chief executive of Water UK, said: “Water companies want to go to the next level in supporting people in vulnerable situations. As their customers are also served by energy companies, it makes sense for us all to work together. By registering for this scheme, customers can help companies help them when they most need it.”
ENA, chief executive, David Smith, added: “Energy companies strive to deliver the best possible service to their customers and network companies currently achieve satisfaction scores of over 85%. “We want to build on that performance and ensure customers are able to get the right information and support as quickly and easily as possible when they need it.”
The scheme also had input and support from Ofwat, Ofgem and the Consumer Council for Water.
Tony Smith, chief executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said greater collaboration between water and other utilities can play a vital role in ensuring more customers in vulnerable situations are able to take advantage of the support available.
“We welcome this initiative and are participating in the project to help ensure it’s a success. We hope it will boost take-up of priority services and help overcome the regional variations in customer awareness of assistance,” he said.
Services currently available for water and energy customers who need extra help include providing priority support in the event of an interruption to supply, the creation of secure passwords for home-visits from employees, and arranging large print or braille bills.