BLOG: Supporting customers to overcome arrears and benefits deductions
06 December 2023
Our Welfare Benefit Advice team is here to help residents access to unclaimed benefits and welfare support. In this blog, Dianne Challis our Welfare Advice Team Leader, shares a case where she helped a vulnerable resident downsize to an affordable home that better suited his circumstances and in turn improved his standard of living.
By Dianne Challis, Welfare Benefit Advice Team Leader
We had a referral from our Income Team in August 2022 for a resident who had considerable rent arrears and was on the verge of losing his home.
After visiting him, we found that he had severe learning difficulties, could not read or write and could not use technology or the internet even though he had access. He was on Universal Credit (UC) but because the property he lived in was a two bedroom home, his UC was reduced by under occupancy deductions (bedroom tax). His rent was higher than the average for single people as he was living in a two-bedroom home, so he was also impacted by the benefit cap. By the time these deductions were taken from his UC, he was left with absolutely nothing to live on.
It was obvious he needed to downsize, but could not with such high rent arrears. We worked with him and applied for extra benefits to hopefully improve his situation. We were able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) for him which cleared his arrears, helped him with the local authority housing bidding system and eventually secured him to a smaller property with lower rent. This meant he was no longer subject to either the under occupancy charge or benefit cap, and finally had the money to get by which he was previously unable to access.
“I may have made this look like a very straight forward turn around, but this was a very complex case. It actually took a year to resolve this residents’ benefits issues. He could not read or write and yet everyone who he turned to for help simply told him to go online, we found that no one was prepared to give time to identify and resolve the issues he had.”
After moving and overcoming the deductions to his UC, he is by no means rich and he still has considerable debt, but he can now live without relying on friends to feed him or top up his meter so he could be warm, and he is no longer at risk of finding himself on the streets. All it took for my team to help change his circumstances was empathy and time.
Support for customers
Please contact us to speak to our Income or Welfare team if you're worried about money, benefits or paying your rent. If you're struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living, we have a dedicated page on our website with advice and support available to you, including tips and support with energy bill increases. You can click here or the green button below to visit our Cost of Living hub.