New programs introduced to help people with financial difficulties [Minister]

2/05/2018
  • McGowan Government drives changes to help those in financial difficulty pay their water bills and to assist people with a specific medical condition
  • Downward trend continues in number of families whose water has been shut off for non-payment 

People struggling to pay their water bills and those with a specific medical condition will benefit from new programs announced today by Premier Mark McGowan at the WA Council of Social Service 2018 Conference.

 

Three new programs will be available to Water Corporation customers from July 1, 2018.

 

The programs are: 

  • Medical Assist- for households that have a family member with kidney disease undertaking home dialysis that requires higher water use. An allowance of up to 180,000 litres of water free of charge each year is available. 
  • Start Over- will assist customers in hardship with a long-term outstanding debt. The Water Corporation will match a customer's payments over a two-year period and then clear any outstanding debt, giving them a fresh start.  
  • Time Assist- for people who have a consistent payment history but a recent event (such as a self-employed builder who has had an accident and is unable to work) results in them being unable to pay. Bills could be put on hold for up to three months.  

Aqwest and Busselton Water Corporation customers already have access to similar financial hardship programs. From July 1, 2018, customers of Aqwest and Busselton Water Corporation will also have access to the Medical Assist program.

 

The Water Corporation's new programs are in addition toother improved financial hardship initiatives, focused on early intervention, announced by the Minister for Water earlier this year. 

 

These measures have contributed to a decrease in the number of people who have had their water supply restricted, for non-payment of bills, down from 2,467 in 2016-17 to 922 in 2017-18 (as at April 30, 2018).

 

Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:

 

"Initiatives like these which assist financially vulnerable groups are strongly supported by this Government.

 

"I am pleased to see the three WA water corporations continue to work with their customers to help Western Australians in need.

 

"The Medical Assist program has been specifically designed to help those with kidney disease undertaking home dialysis - many of which are unable to work because of ill health. It clearly demonstrates how we are putting patients first.

 

"There are things we can do as a Government to ease pressure on the most vulnerable people living in WA, however, with the support of organisations across WA, we can do more to help those in need."

 

Comments attributed to Water Minister Dave Kelly:

 

"As Water Minister, I want to make sure those who are doing it tough have access to a range of programs to help them get back on track.

 

"That is why since we came to government, I have asked the water corporations to work harder at assisting customers in financial difficulty.

 

"We know people who reach out for help early will end up in a better position than those who ignore paying their bills - so I am pleased we have added and strengthened programs to help in these circumstances.

 

"Overall the new programs provide greater choice and flexibility for those keen to get on top of paying bills, add to the suite of recently improved Water Corporation customer assistance programs now on offer, and to programs which already exist at Busselton Water and AqWest."

 

Comments attributed to Community Services Minister Simone McGurk:

 

"The McGowan Government has allocated additional funding to the Hardship Utility Grants Scheme, and honoured its election commitment to reinstate financial counselling, but it is important for utility companies to continue to improve the programs they offer.

 

"It is the responsibility of utility companies to work with their customers to address outstanding bills, not against them. The Water Corporation is leading the way on this.

 

"Our priority is to ensure that those who are most in need are supported. Restricting someone's water or electricity should be a very last resort."

 

Comments attributed to Kidney Health Australia Interim CEO, Dr Lisa Murphy:

 

"I am thrilled that the three water corporations will be helping to ease the financial burden faced by home dialysis patients.

 

"Patients who aren't concession card holders can be out of pocket around $1,500 each year due to water, power and other costs associated with home dialysis.

 

"On top of this, living with end stage renal failure can make maintaining employment challenging, and so the Medical Assist program will provide vital financial relief to the hundreds of home dialysis patients living in Western Australia."

 

Premier's office - 6552 5000

Water Minister's office - 6552 6100

Community Services Minister's office - 6552 6600

 

TABLE OF RESTRICTIONS

 

Year 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Customers flow restrictions 2,342 1,613 2,288 2,162 1,470 2,070 2,280 2,467 922*

*July 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018



Media Enquiries:

Contact: Premier's Office

Phone: 6552 5000