Drowning In Debt?

Thames Water offers struggling customers help with their bills

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Customers struggling to pay water bills in midst of the economic downturn were today urged to contact Thames Water for help.

The company has set up an independently-run £5m Trust Fund to help people in financial strife across London and the Thames Valley and to date has helped almost 1,000 customers.

In some cases customers in genuine need of help will:

• Have their bills paid completely in some cases
• Get help spreading the cost of their bills by setting up an individual payment plan or opting for simpler payment methods like direct debit or payment card
• Be put on the ‘Water Direct’ pay scheme, which takes payments directly from state benefits.

David Owens, Thames Water’s chief executive, said, “Not being able to pay your bill can be very upsetting, but customers in this position don’t have to go it alone. We want them to let us know if they’re struggling so we can give them a hand.

“Since February this year Thames Water Trust Fund has helped nearly 1,000 customers, giving a total of more than £500,000 of assistance. Each of these customers took the first step by making contact with Thames Water, a money advice agency such as Citizens Advice, or directly with the Thames Water Trust Fund.”

Tony Herbert, Citizens Advice Social Policy Officer said, "This charitable trust is very welcome. We are seeing a lot more people struggling to pay their water bills who could benefit. In the three months April - June 2009 the bureau in the South East saw a 36% increase in enquiries about water & sewerage debt problems compared to the same period last year.

"We would urge anyone struggling with their water bill to apply to the Trust Fund and contact their local CAB if they need help applying."

Linda Perham, Chair of the Thames Water Trust Fund, said, "At a time when the financial outlook is bleak for many families, this fund is especially good news for those in financial hardship and struggling to pay their water bills. Each application to the Trust is dealt with in strict confidence and assessed carefully. I’m delighted to say that to date we have been able to help many families with grants totalling £523,000."

Customers should contact Thames Water on 0845 920088, visit www.thameswater.co.uk/trustfund or seek advice from their nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.

September 23, 2009