In 2017/18, our register of those who require assistance because of disability or other personal circumstances was over 60,000 households. These customers have been signed up to our priority services register, and receive different support depending on their needs – this ranges from receiving their bills in alternative formats, to being given additional support during a supply interruption such as provision of bottled water.
Being there when needed.
The rapid freeze thaw incident in early 2018 caused problems for many water users. We’re sorry that happened and are investing heavily to make our plans more robust should it happen again. As well as fixing leaks faster, we will be identifying better ways of providing alternative water supplies, improving our communications and making the most of links with other service providers.
We will also be getting more people on the ground when there is a problem, be it to deliver water to the housebound or tweet updates on progress. We are actively growing our Customer Ambassadors and we’ll have over a hundred of these later this year. As part of our frontline support we are developing a relationship with the Red Cross to provide relief through their volunteer network during an incident.
Identifying customers proactively.
We are not waiting for individuals to approach us and register for extra help, instead we are also being proactive to identify groups or geographic areas of people that are likely to benefit. As well as developing our approach with expert charities such as Age UK and the Citizens Advice Bureau, we are also working with other utility companies, industry bodies and other partners such as Berkshire Fire and Rescue to see how we can make it easy for customers to register.
We are developing training to help our staff across the business – from those fixing pipes to those taking calls – to identify customers in vulnerable situations so then we can ensure they receive the most appropriate type of support. We are also developing how we use data and technology to understand which customers might need extra help in a water outage. If we can better understand the demographics we’ll be better able to tailor the support we offer.
As part of our long-term plan we aim to increase the number of customers on our priority services register to 400,000 by 2025, so we’re ready to help them in an emergency.
We offer a number of free services for customers who have specific requirements, so that we can be as helpful as possible and make our services easy for all our customers. We provide services such as:
- Large print, braille, audio format and coloured background paper for customers with sight problems
- Text-phone, sign language interpreters, dedicated mobile phone number for texting during emergencies for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Additional help in the event of a water supply interruption or sewage flooding for the less mobile
- A doorstep password scheme if we ever need to visit customers at home
- We continue to operate a 24-hour telephone service, via Language Line, that provides an interpreter in any language, within 30 seconds
- We also work with energy providers UK Power Networks (UKPN) and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) to make sure customers in vulnerable circumstances can get any additional help they require from their other utility providers too.
We want to make sure that you can easily access all our services and read the information we send you. More information can be found on our website here. Contact us to tell us what you need and we will do everything we can to help you:
- Call us on our Priority Services line: 0800 009 3652, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm
- Minicom/textphone: 0800 316 6899
- Email: email@example.com
- Write to us at: Thames Water, PO Box 508, Swindon, SN38 2TX.