One of the areas that Moving On Tyne & Wear (MOTW) will chat to their participants about is Financial Capability – and by that we mean supporting them to understand what benefits they’re entitled too, helping them make realistic budgets to improve their financial security and supporting them as they navigate any debt worries.
Over the course of the last year, we’ve been lucky to have Sonia from Oasis Community Housing, a Money Advice Specialist, to support our participants with their finances. Offering 1-2-1 sessions she has helped dozens of people take control of their budget and improve their mental health as a result. Here she talks about a participant she recently supported who, before coming to her, was very worried about potentially becoming homeless.
“I was first alerted to the seriousness of the situation by one of the Senior Navigators of MOTW, Gail Brook. Gail was very concerned that Andrew, a participant of her South Tyneside team, could soon lose his home.
Andrew had been on the MOTW programme for some time, he lived with his sister in a privately rented property which was rented under a tenancy agreement in her name alone. She had decided to move on and had given one month’s notice to end the tenancy. As Andrew wasn’t listed on the property, he could have lost his home as he did not have any legal right to remain there.
Andrew didn’t know what to do, so didn’t do anything and hoped that things would work out somehow…
When Gail learnt of the situation, she immediately referred Andrew to me so we could face the problem together. We needed to discuss his options and look into affordability to see where he could go next. We scheduled a call and I urged him to contact the Housing Options team at his local council as due to the short time frame he now had to find alternative housing, he may have needed to make a homeless application. I also gave him the number for Shelter and encouraged him to reach out to them too.
Being in this situation is nothing to be ashamed of, there are services out there that will go above and beyond to help someone and prevent them ending up on the streets
I explained to Andrew that this isn’t a permanent move, he’d only need this help until we could find him something permanent he could call his own.
Time passed and Andrew began looking at privately rented properties. I chatted through affordability so he could clearly see that it wasn’t just the rent he needed to cover, but all of his bills and outgoings too. I informed him about the Local Housing Allowance rates for the area he was looking to move too which determine how much benefit and financial help he would get towards the rent. As a single person under 35 years of age he would only be entitled to the rate of a room in a shared property so if he was to rent a one or two bedroom property there would be a significant shortfall that he would have to pay himself. I also helped him understand that if that were to happen he could apply for a Discretionary Housing payment to cover the shortfall which is a benefit paid by the Local Authority – but as this is a discretionary scheme there was no guarantee that his application would be successful and even if it was they are often only awarded for short periods of 3 or 6 months.
All of this seemed too risky, too costly, and too much upheaval so we discussed the possibility of him contacting his current landlord and asking if he could stay on at the property he had shared with his sister. The rent was more affordable than other properties in the area, and as he already lived there he felt more comfortable in those surroundings.
The stability of staying put would be invaluable to his mental health and his ability to remain focused on finding employment.
So, he asked, and the landlord agreed! Andrew was given a 6 month tenancy agreement which gave him the peace of mind that he had a stable home for the foreseeable future, but also wasn’t too daunting a commitment as he was still looking for work.
However, there would still be a shortfall that Andrew would need to cover so I guided him through the process of applying for housing costs on his Universal Credit claim, helped him claim for Council Tax support and he also claimed for Discretionary Housing Payments. I helped him set up his gas, electricity, and water accounts – putting everything in his name and helping him find the most affordable options. He was good to go, and then we got the amazing news that Andrew’s Discretionary Housing Payment claim was successful!! He was given a 6 month award, taking him to the end of his tenancy agreement – this was a huge boost for Andrew. His new financial stability means he’s in a great place, his stress and anxiety levels have dropped as a result and he’s now able to engage more with his Navigator and concentrate on finding employment.”
This is a great example of how MOTW can help to turn someone’s life around. If you, or someone you know, would benefit from our support please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Give us a ring on 0191 217 3206, email email@example.com or complete our online referral form.