How to put Ofwat's new service for all vulnerability guidance into practice - TellJO

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How to put Ofwat’s new service for all vulnerability guidance into practice

Published: Feb 13, 2024


New Ofwat vulnerability guidance has set out minimum standards for water companies to ensure that customers who need extra help are given the service they need. Read on to see how companies can put these into practice to support vulnerable customers.

Consumer bills will continue to rise in 2024. As well as the Ofwat vulnerability guidance, Ofwat’s ‘Cost of living report’ found 50% of bill payers ‘struggled fairly frequently’ over the last year with household bills. This increases to two-thirds (65%) of those with a long-term illness, health condition or disability.[1]

In response, Ofwat has announced that water companies are expected to provide high standards of service and support for those who are sick, have a disability or have mental health problems.

Data from TellJO wellbeing checks corroborate this. They reveal that 76.7% of respondents have a long-term illness or disability, 24% are water dependant as a result and 80% have no savings to fall back on.[2]

What are the key objectives?

Ofwat’s new service for all vulnerability guidance sets out minimum standards for supporting vulnerable customers. The five key objectives are:

  1. Provide a high standard of service and support.
  2. Develop services that are inclusive by design.
  3. Identify customers who need extra help.
  4. Record their needs.
  5. Develop vulnerability strategies.

What do the new standards mean for water companies?

The new standards make it crucial for companies to be able to effectively identify and engage with their vulnerable customers. Ofwat found that among consumers awareness of support available for them if they’re struggling has continued to remain low.

Put yourself in the customer’s position, their water bill will be one of a long list of bills needing attention. Often alongside physical or mental health issues that impact ability to wade through information to see if there’s any extra support for them.

Instead of asking a consumer to look through the various support you offer, or to pick up the phone and tell you that they are struggling, (another barrier for many). Try asking them ‘are you okay?’ through a TellJO wellbeing check. This allows them to disclose their situation digitally and receive personalised signposts to further support, which could be debt help, addiction support, or mental health advice for example. It’s inclusively designed and simple to complete with mainly yes/no questions. With the customer’s consent, the water company can use this information to develop services and strategies specific to customer needs.

How to put the Ofwat vulnerability guidance into practice?

The first step will be to get to know your vulnerable customers. Look at your data and identify what gaps you need to fill to get an accurate picture of vulnerabilities. Take a look at our National Wellbeing Index, open-sourced data from TellJO wellbeing checks, to see the kind of insights you can gain. You’ll be able to see where groups of customers are facing challenges, whether that’s financial struggles, health issues, lifestyle etc.

Once you understand the specific vulnerabilities your customers are facing you can create an effective strategy to support them.

Want some more ideas? Email [email protected] to see how we can help you.


[2] Data taken from the Wellbeing Index on 13/02/2024, figures constantly update  

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