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Help with your water bills as a carer


As a carer, it is common to worry about how you or the person you care for will pay the household bills. And with your water bills, you can’t just switch supplier to save money as everyone is supplied by their regional water company.

But there are still lots of different things you can do if you are struggling with your water bills. We discuss some options below.

If you are confident that you do not use much water, then it could be worth getting a water meter installed. This means you would pay for the amount of water you actually use rather than an estimate based on where you live. Take a look at the Consumer Council for Water’s usage calculator to check that it would be more cost-effective for you to have one installed. If you think it will help, you can contact your water company to ask if they will install a meter for free.

If you already have a water meter and want to lower your bills, then it could be worth thinking of ways you might be able to use less water. Some ideas include:

  • Taking a shower rather than a bath – it uses only a third of the water.
  • Turning off the tap when you brush your teeth or shave.
  • Using a washing up bowl rather than running water when washing the dishes.
  • Watering the garden with a watering can rather than a hose.
  • Fully loading the dishwasher or washing machine rather than running smaller loads.
  • Installing what is known as a ‘toilet hippo’ in your cistern to save up to three litres of water every time you flush.
  • Getting a water butt to collect rainwater for use on plants and when washing the car.

If your bills seem higher than you would expect, it can also help to check that you don’t have any leaks that might be pushing up your usage. Even something as simple as fixing a dripping tap can make a big difference – each one wastes at least 5,500 litres of water a year, which is enough to fill a paddling pool every week all summer. [1]

WaterSure is a scheme that can help to keep the cost of your water bills down if you meet certain eligibility criteria. It works by capping your water bills so that you do not pay more than the average metered bill in your area. If your metered bill ends up being lower than this cap, then you will only have to pay for the water you use. If you want to see whether you use enough water for it to be worth applying, then you can contact your water company to find out what their cap is.

In order to apply, you must receive certain benefits. These usually include:

  • Universal Credit.
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
  • Income Support.
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Pension Credit.
  • Housing Benefit.
  • Working Tax Credit.
  • Child Tax Credit awarded at a rate higher than the family element.

The exact benefits that are covered vary a little between water suppliers, with some also covering Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments too. It is best to contact them to find out if you would be eligible.

You must also have a high essential use of water. This means that, due to certain circumstances, you need to use a lot of water. This could be because you have three or more children who are under 19 and are in full-time education and use the house as their main home. Or it could because someone living there has a particular medical condition. Certain conditions automatically qualify including:

  • Desquamation (flaky skin disease).
  • Weeping skin disease (eczema, psoriasis or varicose ulceration).
  • Incontinence.
  • Abdominal stomas.
  • Renal failure requiring dialysis at home.
  • Crohn's disease.
  • Ulcerative colitis.

If someone in the house has another condition which means you are likely to use more water than normal, then you can still apply but they may ask for further details from a doctor about the condition and how it affects the amount of water you use.

Some high uses of water are not covered, including if you need to water your garden using a hose, refill a pond or fill a swimming pool with a capacity over 10,000 litres.

You must also have a water meter. If not, you are still eligible if you are on a waiting list for one or are paying an assessed charge because your property cannot have one fitted.

You can apply for WaterSure by completing a form provided by your water company. They may need evidence from you, including details of the benefits you receive and any relevant medical conditions. Some water companies will accept a stamp from a GP as confirmation of the condition, which should be free. But others won’t and will require a doctor’s certificate, which you will likely have to pay for. Your water company will tell you whether you will need to reapply again every year for the WaterSure scheme or not. Be sure to let them know if your circumstances change and you are no longer eligible for support.

In addition to WaterSure, most water companies also have other schemes and funds to support people facing hardship. They may also have reduced rates for people with low incomes or on particular benefits, sometimes known as social tariffs, which are usually capped at a lower amount than normal bills. Take a look at the Consumer Council for Water’s website for details of what your local water company offers.

For some very specific medical conditions, the NHS will make a contribution to your water bills. For instance, if you require dialysis at home, the NHS will pay for the water needed to run the dialysis machine. You may need to get a separate water meter installed for the machine, so they know how much it uses. To find out whether this is something you are eligible for, talk to your medical team.

If none of these options work for you and you are still struggling to pay your bills, then it is important to speak to your water company as soon as possible. They may allow you to spread your payments out using a payment plan, to make it easier to keep on top of them.

Although it won’t necessarily help with your bills, it might still be a good idea for you and the person you care for to be added to your water company’s Priority Services Register. This is a free service for older and vulnerable customers that provides a little extra support. This could include everything from getting water delivered to you in an emergency to being notified by phone if your supply is interrupted. Just get in touch with your water company and ask to be added.

Online Help and Advice

Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

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