Water Consumers Research Project
The South Australian Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) contracts the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) to identify priority projects for potential funding under the Consumer Advocacy and Research Fund. SACOSS identified consolation with people living with disability as water consumers as a priority and JFA Purple Orange was commissioned by DCSI to deliver the project in 2017. This video is a summary of what JFA Purple Orange did and discovered.
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The South Australian Council of Social Service-- SACOSS-- identified a priority need to consult people living with disability about their experiences using water services, sewerage, and so on. As a result, South Australia's Department for Communities and Social Inclusion commissioned Purple Orange to run this consultation. Here's what we did and what we discovered.
It's important that people with lived experience of disability are really driving our projects. We really believe strongly in the co-design process. All of the consultation materials, all of the measures that were used were developed as a group.
We ran 11 consultations across South Australia, and in that process, we spoke to 129 individuals that either lived with disability themselves or were caring for someone living with disability. And we spoke to these people about their experiences with the water service and sewerage services that were provided to them.
The main deliverable for this project was a report that was submitted to DCSI and to SACOSS. In that report, we provided a summary of what our participants and our consumers had said in terms of the issues that they had experienced, and at the end of that report, we had a series of policy and practice recommendations.
There were three key issues that emerged. Sometimes information just wasn't accessible to people. Some of the recommendations included the provision of an easy English water bill for consumers that live with an intellectual disability, just having that option available. We also recommended that a 24-hour direct telephone number be set up for consumers that live with disability, so that they could speak directly with a person rather than having to navigate one of those automated numbered systems.
Another key finding that emerged from the study was around hardship policies and concessions. Water suppliers have some really great programs in place where they can provide assistance for consumers that are unable to pay their bill. What we found, though, was that a lot of the consumers living with disability were unaware of those great programs that were in place, which suggested that those hardship policies and those concessions and those discounts really needed to be promoted so that consumers are aware that those things are out there and available to them.
The third key finding that emerged was around the cost structures in place in South Australia, in terms of consumption and payment of water use. The more water you use, the more you pay for it. But a lot of our participants had to use extra water because of the disability that they live with, which suggested that the current cost structure be revised so that consumers living with disability aren't financially penalized for any extra water usage that they may have.
There were quite a few issues reported in this project that were very specific to the experience of living with disability. We think it's really important that people that live with disability are consulted on these sorts of things, so that their voices are heard and that any policy and practice recommendations that are made really reflect their perspectives.