Our vulnerability manifesto

We want to ensure that every consumer in vulnerable circumstances gets the support they need, when they need it – regardless of the temporary or longer-term challenges they face.

Our key outcomes

Our manifesto sets out the six key outcomes we are committed to achieving with the sector to remove the barriers that prevent some consumers accessing non-financial assistance.

Raising awareness of the support available through water companies’ Priority Services Registers to 60% by the end of 2025 and to 75% by the end of 2030 will help to achieve this.

This is important because awareness of PSRs among water consumers is presently at 42%. Covid-19 has provided a stark reminder that people’s circumstances can change rapidly along with their need for support. It is crucial as many consumers as possible are aware of the help available, whether their need is immediate or not.

We want to transform the perception of water companies’ communications so at least 75% of people view them positively by 2025.

This is important because currently 51% of water consumers say communication from their company is poor. Language, literacy, culture, living in a rural area, being digitally excluded or having a disability remain barriers to communications being understood.

Our research with consumers impacted by the severe weather in 2018 revealed that companies struggled to identify and cater for many people in vulnerable circumstances. Communication was also poor and there was inadequate provision of emergency water.

We want 95% of consumers to be satisfied that their company’s services meet their needs and are accessible.

This is important because the benefits of inclusive design are wide-ranging and can lead to greater social inclusion, allowing people to fully access a company’s services and therefore reducing the need for a consumer to require additional support.

We want at least 95% of consumers who are on the Priority Services Register to be satisfied with the support offered to them.

This is important because the numbers are meaningless if the support is not meaningful. Increasing the amount of people registered for priority services will only make a difference if the support they receive is sufficient. Consumers are best placed to say whether their needs are being met.

Companies should have an effective safeguarding policy and training so their employees are equipped to spot signs that someone needs support both inside and outside of the workplace and know where to report their concerns.

This is important because utility companies are often uniquely placed to spot scams, abuse, neglect, and mental health issues through their direct contact with their communities. They can therefore play a crucial role in spotting signs that a consumer could need support and alerting those organisations who can help.

Making change happen

The launch of a series of campaigns will help us to achieve these outcomes and we have set out the the first two:

Our initial campaign will focus on reducing barriers to communications between water companies and the communities they serve to raise awareness of the availability of support and to improve understanding of emergency communications during an incident.

We will be creating a CCW vulnerability forum that will hold round-tables on topics that will help deliver the improved outcomes. The purpose of these will be to explore solutions, reduce barriers and commit to implementing improvements.

We will also share an insight paper that looks at solutions found within the industry and in other sectors and countries.

Our second campaign will focus on improving consumer awareness of what to expect from their water company when an incident happens.

An information note for consumers setting out what companies should be doing to support them when something goes wrong will be produced and published on our website and social media.

We will also be doing more work to understand consumers’ experiences of incidents by using our local networks and deploying other techniques such as more formal research.

In addition to our campaigns, we will continue to collaborate with other organisations to help identify potential consumer needs and the support companies can offer.  For 2020-21, we are working with SCOPE to raise awareness within the water industry of the needs of people with disabilities and the tailored support that companies can provide.

We also continue to be part of the National Mental Capacity Forum’s Utilities Working Group.  The group’s past projects include launching the Dementia Friendly Utilities and Utilities Against Scams campaigns, which provide guidance documents, and training for utility companies. For 2020-21, we are working together on how utilities can support mental health and the link to financial difficulty.

Get involved

We want to collaborate with Ofwat, other regulators, water companies and other interested organisations to improve outcomes for consumers in vulnerable circumstances.

If you are interested in becoming a member of our vulnerability forum – or if you want to discuss how we can work together – please get in touch at [email protected]

We look forward to hearing from you.