Six months in, ‘Your Money, Your Home’ is making a big difference to people’s lives
Sometimes we are so busy doing our jobs, that we forget about the difference our work makes. I just wanted to share a text, which our Financial Inclusion Officer received last week after helping a tenant who was struggling to cope financially.
‘Why can’t they all be as helpful as you, feel so relieved today. Feel like a big weight has been lifted’
Now, nearly six months into our Comic Relief-funded project, ‘Your Money, Your Home’ it’s good to take time to reflect on what it is we are doing and why. We are only a small team, which means we have to be very focussed in our delivery method, but always putting individual’s needs at the heart of what we do. By working collaboratively with private landlords, tenants, support & advice agencies and local authorities we can and are making a difference. Many of the tenants we have worked with have not engaged with any support, sometimes because they don’t want to face up to the reality of their situations and, sometimes, because when they have tried they have been met with unsupportive responses.
We know only too well how resource intensive face-to-face work is, but sitting down with a tenant, in their home, allows you the opportunity to learn a lot more about their circumstances. So often, the reason why we visited them in the first place is one of the last things to be addressed. As with many things, bad debt and financial difficulty is usually just one symptom of a wider cause.
Of the 84 tenants we have worked with to date;
49 required referrals for additional support, including 23 for Discretionary Housing Payments, 18 to the Discretionary Assistance Fund, 13 to the Department for Work and Pensions to make an application for Personal Independence Payment, 6 to Supporting People and 7 for digital inclusion support.
67% had experienced difficulty paying for things over the last 12 months. Of these, 52% had struggled to keep up with rent, 71% had struggled to pay for electricity and/or gas, 27% had struggled to pay for food, while 32% had struggled to repay credit. In the last 12 months, 31% of people had borrowed from a doorstep lender.
14% were in rent arrears and only half of these were making any repayments on those arrears. 51% of people had to make additional contributions to cover their rent (top-ups) and only 14% had applied for Discretionary Housing Payments.
Embedding a basic awareness of financial inclusion, and how to refer people into the right type of advice/support, into the daily routines of frontline workers could make a significant difference to the number of people who reach financial crisis. Addressing bad debt before it becomes a crisis can not only have a positive impact on a person’s health and wellbeing, but it could also free up capacity of the specialist support/advice services.
We regularly tweet about the progress of our project using #YMYH. Follow our Monitoring and Evaluation Co-ordinator @ClaireWalesCoOp to keep up to date. If you would like to receive the YMYH quarterly newsletter let us know.
Jocelle Lovell, #YMYH Project Manager