County Durham-based believe housing and Northumbrian Water teamed up to support customers who were struggling to pay their bills.
The project focused on cross-referring customers who were in arrears or seeking financial support with one or both partners, so they could receive help from both at the same time.
The team discovered that many people receiving Pension Credit were eligible for a discount on their water bills but not claiming it.
More than 1,000 such believe housing customers were identified and enrolled automatically for the discount, with most saving more than £100 a year.
Julie Brayson, Director of Transformation and Culture at believe housing, said: “This initiative shows the power of partnerships between believe housing and other companies and organisations with a shared desire to support customers.
“By understanding each other’s services, sharing information, and putting the right systems in place we’ve been able to ease the money worries of many customers.
“All this was done automatically or by the end of a single phone call, so customers didn’t have to chase down the help they’re entitled to or retell their story which could be difficult to share.
“We’re exceptionally proud to have achieved so much in a short period of time and are excited about this partnership’s potential as we look for more opportunities to work together to help people living in our homes.”
The idea for the pilot project emerged from last year’s Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival where both organisations were looking for ways to better support customers grappling with the rising cost of living.
Starting with a face-to-face session, both teams go to know each other and the support they offer.
Northumbrian Water can offer a cheaper rate, known as a social tariff, to households with a low income and it provides extra support to people in vulnerable situations, through its priority services register.
believe housing offers support beyond helping tenants to pay their rent such as budgeting and benefits advice, food and energy vouchers, and employability support.
For a six-week trial period, the two organisations set up a system to securely share information and transfer phone calls so each could play their part in easing a customer’s financial situation at the same time.
Residents calling believe housing for other services, such as a boiler repair, were also offered the opportunity to speak to Northumbrian Water.
And thousands of customers were made aware of the available support through a communications campaign which ran alongside the trial.
Mark Wilkinson, Head of Income at Northumbrian Water, said: “It’s really important to us that we help those customers who need it, in any way that we can.
“By working in partnership with believe housing we’ve been able to make things easier for our customers, supporting those who need it much more quickly with a single phone call.”
Building on the pilot’s success, believe housing and Northumbrian Water have identified thousands more people who could be eligible for discounts or benefit from the range of support they offer.
They are now working to apply all possible savings, with final figure expected to be much higher than £117,000, and will collaborate in the future to reach as many customers as possible.
A different process is required to check whether people receiving Universal Credit (UC) can get discounted water rates, so they should contact Northumbrian Water for help or believe housing if they pay for water with their rent.
Households on an income of less than £17,005 could save up to 50 percent on their water rates. To check eligibility, visit nwl.co.uk/bill-help.
Any believe housing customer who is struggling to pay their rent or bills is urged to call 0300 1311 999.