Yorkshire Water – The Priority Service Register & Saving Water

We recently videoed Joanne Wilkinson and John Roe from the Community Engagement Team when they joined one of our meetings via zoom for a presentation and to answer questions on The Yorkshire Water Priority Service Register scheme (full details of which are also below the video). You can watch their presentation in the video below:

Sign Up For Yorkshire Water Priority Services

Did you know that Yorkshire Water operate a priority services register – whether it’s additional support if you’ve got no water, help reading your bills, providing your bills in different font sizes or in braille, or if you just need a bit of help to pay your bill.

Sign Up To Priority Services

Your water supply

If Yorkshire Water plan to interrupt your water supply, they can help you:

  • – If you wouldn’t be able to read a letter, they can telephone you or visit to let you know in advance.
  • – If you have difficulty hearing they can send you a postcard or letter or inform you by text
  • – If you have a serious illness or disability they can help you to obtain temporary water supplies.
  • – If you’re a home dialysis patient, please let them know.

They can also provide advice about making taps and appliances in your home easier to use, and give you information about your water quality.

Communication

They can help you by sending your bill, or other information:

– in large print
– in Braille
– in audio format (CD or over the phone)
– to a nominated friend or family member.

Keeping you safe

Bogus callers may try to trick you by saying there’s an urgent problem with your water. Yorkshire Water recommend that you set up a free security password in advance, so that you can confirm the identity of anyone calling at your home and claiming to be from Yorkshire Water. If you’d like to register, please call them on 0800 1 38 78 78.

For your own safety, always ask for proof of identification. All Yorkshire Water’s Colleagues and Service Partners will carry identity cards displaying the holder’s photograph. If you’re in any doubt you can contact them to check whether a caller is genuine, quoting the employee number printed on their identity card.

Sign Up To Priority Services

Yorkshire Water’s Presentation

John and Joanne from Yorkshire Water joined us at out 26 October 2021 Open Meeting to talk to us about the organisation’s Priority Service Register and what it has to offer. Here’s an edited transcript of their presentation. You can also find a video of their presentation above.

JOHN:  Hi there thank you. I just want to start thanking everybody for the work that’s gone into allowing us to come today to present to you on the screen.  It’s a shame we’re not actually there.  Thank you for your attendance and attention it’s really appreciated.

We’ve been asked to talk to you a little bit about Yorkshire Water and tell you about what support may be available to yourselves and we can explain how we can support you with your water bill.

JOANNE:  The aim of today is to provide you with information regarding all the support schemes Yorkshire Water has available for their customers so you can look at reducing yearly charges.  Now according to the Consumer Council for Water, 5 out of 6 people who can’t afford their water bills are not getting the support they need; at Yorkshire Water we work with our customers to get you on the best scheme for your circumstances.  We offer payment plans, capped charges and tailored arrangements.

JOHN:  So all these schemes come with a payment plan, they can be weekly fortnightly, monthly, quarterly or half-yearly and it’s good to know that customers can have one or more of our schemes running alongside each other.

JOANNE:   We have information regarding all these support schemes, what they entail and how you can apply for them if applicable.

We’re going to talk to you about the water support scheme.  This may be applicable if you have got an annual water bill over £430 and receive low income.

JOHN:  We will do a quick run through about water meters, if you have got more bedrooms than people you can have a meter installed and you can have it on a 2 year trial period.

JOANNE:   Then we have got the community trust, one of our debt schemes.  This is for customers who have arrears between £50 to £2,000 along with other priority debts outstanding.

JOHN:  And then another scheme is Water Sure, so if you have got a meter and there is somebody in the house in receipt of the income based benefit, 3 or more children live there under 19, or someone who has a medical condition and that causes extra water to be used.

JOANNE:   Then we have the Water Direct schemes this is for customers who have arrears with us over £75 in receipt of deductible benefit we can deduct it apt source

JOHN:  Then Resolve is a restart plan we offer for customers who have 12 or more months of arrears. The aim is to get them debt free and going forward with a payment plan

JOANNE:   Then we have the Register to help customers who may need extra support from us

JOHN:  Then we will tell you about the water saver, so they’ll help you save water round the home and we will show you what they are and how you can get hold of them.

JOANNE:   We’re going to start with the Water Support Scheme.  So the Water Support Scheme could help you reduce your annual charges to the average Yorkshire Water bill amount.  Who will qualify for this scheme?  Any of our customers that receive a low household income and have a yearly water charge of this year over £430 you could possibly apply for this Water Support Scheme which will reduce your yearly charges to a fixed amount of £418.92 pence and customers do save around £205 a year.  If this is applicable for yourself we will need to know how many people live at your property and the total net income received.

There are full benefits we do not take into account consideration; child benefits, Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and attendance allowance.  You may be claiming more than one of these benefits which are not added into the calculation of your household income.  We have a criteria for different family make up so it differs according to the number of occupants living with you.

You will fill in an application form and return it with proof of your household income and we will advise whether you have been successful. This scheme is available for any Yorkshire Water customers and doesn’t matter if you’re billed or metered as long as the bill is over £430.

Now the Water Support Scheme can be awarded for you between 1 to 3 years depending on your circumstances and when we require you to renew the scheme we will contact you at that point.  If you have savings over £16,000, unfortunately you will not qualify for water support irrelevance of your net household income.

JOHN:  Next a quick word about water meters and we like to offer you the opportunity to see if you could be charged differently for your supply.  For some people a water meter might be a good option to save water.  If you have got more bedrooms than people a water meter might be best for you. On this one an estimate of how much Yorkshire Water think a typical family might use according to the number of occupiers. There are on the top left living by myself and my bill was £227.  A couple and their bill was £264, poor old Craig living with 4 adults queuing for the bathroom and his bill was £564 so that’s a few examples from staff members.

The water meters themselves are installed for free and can take up to 90 days to be fitted and last year we fitted over 40,000 meters.  Most meters can be read remotely so they don’t have to bother you to take a reading.  It can be done outside with a bluetooth device. Just out of interest so you know water meters are recorded in cubic metres, 220 gallons costing £1.42 and you’d be able to make with that 3300 cups of lovely Yorkshire tea or 11 baths.  Easiest way to apply is on-line by the website you can request a call back at a time to suit you or ring and make an appointment there and then.

You get 2 years to try the water meter and any point you can revert back to the previous meter charge.  The meter does remain the property and the next occupiers will be charged on that water meter.

JOANNE:   We will move to the Community Trust.  Yorkshire Water’s Community Trust is a charity an independent Board of Trustees with nothing to do with us at the Yorkshire Water and our customers ask them to make payments on their water account and maybe have fallen behind with other priority debts as well.

To make an application to the Community Trust you must have water arrears between £50 and £2,000 along with 1 other priority debt over £50.  So what do the Trust class as a priority debt?  They will class rent, mortgage, council tax, gas, electricity and HMRC income tax.

Now if you do have a priority debt mentioned you may be able to get an award up to £750 for your arrears.  Now the Trust is there to assist customers who are struggling to pay and having financial hardship.  If you’re awarded a successful application you cannot apply to the Trust for further funding for 2 years.  You can do it twice and after that it’s every 5 years you can submit an application.  Now the Trust last year had £900,000 available and customers were successful to receive towards their water arrears.  The Trust saw a drop in the applications last year due to the pandemic but expect this year with the furlough ended and UC top up ended to see customers getting back on track.

An application form has to be completed down-loaded from our website and returned to the trust either by post or email.  The form will need to include proof of your income and proof of your priority debt and all the proof does have to be dated within the last 3 months and show your name, address and amount received or owed.  So applying to the trust could help clear some of your arrears on the water account and make all the repayments more affordable to you.

JOHN:  So next tell you about Water Sure which is set by DEFRA, that’s the government department for food and farming.  So to qualify you must be on a water meter and be using a high amount of water and be in receipt of income based benefit and have 3 or more independents, children who you receive child benefit for or someone loving in the property with a medical condition that necessitates them using extra water.  For the medical conditions, incontinence, skin disorders and also conditions like autism, you mentioned Parkinson’s disease and that’s just a few on the list.

So what income based benefit to apply for Community Trust?  As you can see there is a list there and just point out a couple of things, I’ll not read it out.  On the child tax credits, if you’re in receipt of the family element wouldn’t qualify because it’s not an income-based benefit and in regards to the employment support there is a contribution based element.  For these which we don’t accept has to be income based or income related so to be awarded the scheme you complete an application form and must provide proof of the benefit you receive, you can apply for family reasons, child benefit and if medical reasons some proof of the medical condition.

If you do apply we still read the meter and review at the end of the 12 months to see if you have made a saving and if you haven’t we will refund the difference to charge you at the original rate.  A customer made a savings of 534 a year.  If successful your water bills are capped at £104 a quarter if you fit the criteria.

JOANNE:   Okay so we will move to Water Direct.  To qualify for Water Direct you must have water arrears over £75 and need to be in receipt of a deductible income based benefit.  What benefits do you have?  You have universal credit, income-based job seekers allowance, income based employment support allowance, income credit and income support.  Water Direct can help you maintain regular payments that contribute towards your water arrears and current year charges.  We can arrange for the department for work & pensions to give up to a fixed amount from your benefit before you receive it.  The amount deducted is based on the yearly water charges plus £3.75 a year is deducted for arrears.  The arrears figure of 3.75 is set by the Department for Work and Pensions and unfortunately it’s not negotiable.  You can have deductions taken so it might make it easier if you have arrears over £75 and having money taken directly from your benefit will stop any further recovery action being taken against you.

JOHN:  Resolve is our restart scheme and can help if you are struggling to catch up with arrears. You need to be debt free and paying charges at an amount you can manage.  We agree a payment plan up to 12 months so to qualify you have to be struggling to pay and experiencing financial difficulties.  Your water arrears need to be at least 12 months old, provide us with income and expenditure and we can make assessment of your situation.  The scheme itself is a one-off payment scheme, it’s important to keep up with payments and arrangements it won’t continue to be offered if you weren’t to make payments. Once you use resolve it can’t be an option further down the line if the customer dropped back into arrears.

Each time you make payments we add an award which removes the portion of the arrears and this happens until the final portion, the 4th one where we leave you with just ongoing charges to pay.  By the way because this is a special arrangement you can’t be take payment by direct debit but you can pay by standing order or payment card and obviously pay by debit or credit card.  It’s an ideal scheme to apply and it could get you debt free.

JOANNE:   So we will move to the Priority Services Register.  This is a service you can apply for and apply for a range of extra services if required.  All energy providers have a service register so if you sign up to Yorkshire Water priority services you might want to join gas and electricity services as well.  You can apply on the website or ring the free phone number if you do not have access to the internet.

It’s broken down into 3 categories.  We have got communication, welfare and supply needs. So communication, this is how we communicate with you – you may for example have sight problems so you may I require large print Braille or audio documentation.  You may want an early warning about pre planned work we’re doing in your area and we can send outpost cards informing you of these works before they commence.

Next we have welfare. For the wellbeing and welfare of our customers you might want a password on your account or set up a nominee to deal with your affairs.  Customers on water meters you may require your water meter reading for often and we can organise a visit from a representative if there is a major incident in your area.

The last category is the needs this is for customers who need a constant supply of water to their homes.  For example a dialysis patient or families with children under 5 years old.  You can have free bottled water and this will be delivered to your door step if we interrupt your supply for whatever reason.  These are a few of our free services we offer but look at the website to see what’s available and to say it’s not one per household require 4, 5, 6 services, you can sign up for as many as you require.

JOHN:  Next we will move to the Water Savers and we like a freebie and currently Yorkshire Water offer 2 packs: a save pack and an anti blockage pack; so one pack per household so we’ll quickly run through the items in each pack.

JOANNE:   Water saving pack ideal if you live with a water meter, the items will save additional money for you.  The first item is leaky toilet detection strip.  The strip fits inside the toilet bowl.  If after 3 hours the strip remains unchanged great news no leak but if it dissolves or wording becomes blurred you do have a leak on your supply.

The next item is a safer flush system bag and this is a bag that goes inside the toilet system and will save between 1 to 2 metres per flush.  The third is a shower indicator this move on to the shower hose and designed to, tap insert though these screw on to the bath room taps to make the water maintain at 5 metres per minute and the last is a 4 minute shower timer this helps reduce water usage and time spent in the shower and it’s a good little gadget if you have teenage children living at home who spend hours in that shower.

JOHN:  We will move to the anti blockage pack.  We have had a campaign about packages and these have flown off our shelves.  Keep an eye on it if you want these we could be a few months unfortunately.  We will see how it goes.  So the first item is a hair catcher of the age where I don’t need to worry about my hair blocking the shower, that’s sad but it goes over the plug hole and on top of that is a blue rubber flower that goes over the top.  It has suction pads at the bottom and catches any hair going down the plug hair.

Next is a gum pot a small collapsible top and instead of it going down the plug hole you put the fat in here while it’s still warm.  Once it solidifies you scrape it out and put it in the bin.  If you prefer to wash up or don’t have the luxury of a dishwasher you can catch bits in the water before they drain away.

Finally the box of bags for wipes.  We don’t want wipes in our pipes and pretty much all wet wipes that claim to the flushable are not and you may be aware of blocked sure pipes.  Put the wipes in the bag instead of down the toilet.  Both are normally available off the Yorkshire Water website.

JOANNE:   We’re going to give a quick recap.  The water support scheme, if you have got a bill over £430 and in recede of income it’s applicable for yourselves.

JOHN:  Water meters and said people can make a saving and it’s a too year trial.

JOANNE:   If you have got debts with us community trust could give £750.

JOHN:  Water sure for a property with a meter already using a lot of water in receipt of an income based benefit, 3 children there.

JOANNE:   Then the water direct scheme if you have got arrears over £75 in receipt of one of those benefits that we mentioned you could apply for water direct.

JOHN:  Then resolve, so the arrears are more than 12 months old and you have got a low income

JOANNE:   Your Priority Services Register a free service to help those of you who may need extra support from us.

JOHN:  Then the free packs and products around the home.

JOANNE:   How do you contact us?  Everything we spoke about today you can view on our website under the help pay your bill link and applications forms can be down-loaded as well.  Give our customer services team a call and they will direct you to the relevant team for the scheme you’re in quite ring about. You can write to us at the address in Bradford.  On the website request a call back at a time that suits yourselves.  If you know what tweeting is about you can tweet us and we are available on Facebook and Instagram.

JOHN:  That’s just about the end of the presentation we appreciate your listening, apologies for those of you who weren’t able to see the screen, just to finish off we have made a quick guide with a couple of lines about each subject and I mentioned at the start customers may be eligible for more schemes.  To give a example of how it might work so a customer living on their own with yearly water £555 and in receipt of job seekers allowance, they have got water arrears around £1600 and substantial rent arrears, our customer could request a water meter, apply to water direct and apply to the trust who could make an award towards the water arrears.  That’s trust remember solve you can’t be on resolve and apply for funding from the trust at the same time and vice versa.