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'Sink or Swim: Consumers' experiences of water and sewerage debt'

Citizens Advice Scotland has published a report providing insights into the impact that water and sewerage debt has on the lives of vulnerable consumers.

Based on case evidence and independent research, the Sink or Swim report highlights the plight of consumers in Scotland living in the financial margins, particularly those on 100% Council Tax Reduction, who often find themselves in debt for water charges. Despite receiving up to a 100% reduction in Council Tax, many assume that the same discount applies to water, do not pay and subsequently find themselves in debt. There is evidence that debt recovery practices can cause significant hardship, and place significant pressure on often already weakened financial means.

Recommendations within the report suggest necessary measures to prevent debt occurring in the first place. The findings and recommendations in the report also highlight the need for additional action to be taken to support society’s most vulnerable to recover from debt.

Citizens Advice Scotland's view is that more needs to be done to make vulnerable consumers aware of the need to pay for water charges. While it is right to expect consumers to pay for the services they use, payment should not take priority over personal financial security and wellbeing, and ultimately, debt recovery practices should aim to help consumers recover from indebtedness.

Gail Walker
Publication date
October 2015
Publication type
Consumer Futures Unit
Number of pages