Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Working to Reduce the Stress of Debt; Claire Sharp, Customer Director at Northumbrian Water Group, Looks at How the Company Is Helping Customers to Reduce or Remove Debt

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Working to Reduce the Stress of Debt; Claire Sharp, Customer Director at Northumbrian Water Group, Looks at How the Company Is Helping Customers to Reduce or Remove Debt

Article excerpt

WE recognise that sometimes life's ups and downs mean that some customers may find themselves in challenging financial situations As a business that puts customers at the heart of everything we do, it's important that we are aware of this and that we find ways to help.

It's also why it's vital that, when there is a problem, customers speak with us as early as possible, so that we can look for ways to provide support.

Three years ago, we teamed up with StepChange Debt Charity to help customers of Northumbrian Water when they face financial difficulties.

An industry first, the partnership was set up to offer customers access to free, confidential debt advice and support.

Water is essential to life; our 2.7 million customers across the North East rely on it for hydration, to support their wellbeing, as well as for washing, cooking and cleaning.

So, when customers think they are unable to pay their bill, we know it can lead to broader worries that add to their financial concerns.

As the UK's largest debt charity, StepChange is a natural partner to entrust with such important and often sensitive matters for our customers.

In 2016 alone, the partnership has seen more than 2,500 referrals to StepChange. These referrals allow us to understand better each customer's financial situation and creates an opportunity - and the time - for them to work with the charity to put together an action plan.

StepChange gives advice on a range of issues, from debt to bankruptcy, and even has an online benefits calendar on its website.

The partnership runs alongside a range of support available directly through our team, giving customers a number of ways to pay their bills. These include monthly instalments and budget plans, to help customers spread the cost of our services.

Short-term payment plans and even payment holidays for customers who have a break in income are also available. …

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