Citizens Advice Scotland’s Consumer Futures Unit is holding a conference on Water Direct, a scheme used by local authorities to collect water and sewerage debt and current charges, on 24 March in central Edinburgh. The event is for practitioners in revenue collection and debt advice. It will provide delegates with an update on the roll-out of Water Direct across Scotland, what this could mean for local authorities and for those in debt for water and sewerage.
What is Water Direct?
Scottish consumers who are in debt for water and sewerage charges may be affected by the application of Water Direct, a scheme adopted by many local authorities. Local authorities can sign up to the Water Direct scheme to recover not only historic debt from clients, but also current charges through deductions to client’s benefits. Local authorities can apply directly to DWP without having to go through the Summary Warrant stage. The CFU is aware that the majority of local authorities will have adopted the Water Direct scheme by the end of 2017. Water Direct involves the direct deduction of a weekly amount from benefits for water and sewerage arrears and also an amount for current charges. Previous evidence has shown that many consumers in receipt of full Council Tax Reduction assume that they do not pay for water and sewerage charges, and therefore ignore their Council Tax notification. As a result they can find themselves in debt without understanding how they got there.
What is the issue?
As Council Tax and water charges are billed together within the same notification, many people in receipt of 100% Council Tax Reduction do not realise that they are still liable to pay at least 75% of their water charges. Local authorities tend to apply for Water Direct without first checking the debtors’ ability to pay, which can cause financial detriment by leaving them without enough to live on, or by displacing other debt repayment arrangements.
The Water Direct event
The Water Direct event will provide advisers and bureau managers with information on what Water Direct is, what it could mean for clients in your area, and an update on debt recovery good practice that has been developed as part of joint working between local authorities and debt advice organisations, based on the experiences of Fife Council and CARF.
The event is being held jointly by the Consumer Futures Unit (Citizens Advice Scotland), Money Advice Scotland, Fife Council and the IRRV.
Date: 24 March 2017, 10.00am – 2.00pm (breakfast rolls and lunch provided)
Attendance is free of charge. Please click here to register.