United Utilities extends online debt support service to everyone in the North West amid ongoing cost of living crisis

United Utilities has opened up its dedicated online debt support hub to everyone across the North West region, bringing together hundreds of financial aid schemes in one place so that people can find help for free.

The water company created the Hardship Hub in 2019 to give debt advisors a way to see a range of support services in one place, making it quicker and easier for them to direct their clients to appropriate help.

Now, as many households struggle to make ends meet due to the ongoing cost of living crisis, the website is being opened up so that everyone can get direct access and find out what help is available to them. The schemes listed on the site come from energy and utility companies, local authorities, housing agencies, charities, and advice and community groups from across the region. There are details on a range of support and advice schemes, from help with utility bills to guidance on applying for housing support.

The Hardship Hub is open to anyone and there’s no need to register or provide any personal details. There are around 500 schemes listed on the site, covering national, regional and local initiatives, and United Utilities will keep the list updated. The site is available at www.hardshiphub.co.uk and the listings can be searched by location or type to help people find appropriate services for where they live and their situation.

Michelle Atkinson, Revenue Director at United Utilities, said: “We’ve seen a 74% increase in the number of customers filling out our ‘struggling to pay’ form online, and we know that it won’t just be water bills that people are worrying about but other household costs too, so that’s why we wanted to open up the Hardship Hub.

“This will give everyone right across the North West direct access to a vast range of information on financial advice and support services that could make a real difference in their lives.

“The hub has been well used by debt advisors over the past few years, but we know that not everyone wants to speak out about their problems or knows where to go, so making the Hardship Hub available like this will allow people to search for support in their own time.

“We encourage anyone who is struggling, whether with paying a bill, feeding their family, heating their home or anything else, to go online and take a look. Of course customers can still contact us directly via our website too for help with their water bill, or to register for our Priority Services scheme for extra support.”

The Hardship Hub website has undergone a rigorous testing process to ensure the information is accessible to people with different needs. It is available in multiple languages; the font size and colour can be changed; and there is a speaking service available too. Warrington Disability Partnership has been involved in this process as part of its ongoing collaboration with United Utilities to support vulnerable customers.

Dave Thompson MBE DL, Chief Executive Officer of Warrington Disability Partnership, said: “United Utilities always goes above and beyond to support vulnerable customers, so it is a natural next step to open up the Hardship Hub to everyone in the North West.

“We know that many people feel embarrassed to reach out for help, so having this information available for free will hopefully mean that more people can get support to improve their lives.

“There are numerous options on the site to make it accessible to all, and we’d encourage anyone who knows someone without internet access who may need this kind of information to lend them a hand – it really could make a big difference.”

The Hardship Hub is available at: www.hardshiphub.co.uk



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