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BLOG: How the Welfare Team has adapted to the lockdown - By Dianne Challis

19 May 2020

Dianne Challis

The last seven weeks have been crazy to say the least. The Welfare Team came into lockdown without a clue as to how, or even if, we could do our job without that face to face contact with our residents. We’re a close team with residents being much at the heart of what we do. We’ve had to be inventive with how we support them and our colleagues in this fast-changing situation.

By Dianne Challis, Welfare Advice Team Leader

Normally when we get a referral, one of the first things we do is arrange to see the resident, sometimes in the office but more often in their home. This helps us to identify the issues, access any paperwork, make calls as the resident can verify their consent and get through any security necessary. It’s never easy, each person, each situation is different. You can advise the resident which action they need to take but sometimes that’s just not possible and you need to do it for them. Lockdown makes this impossible.

Adapting to the challenge

The team has become first class detectives, identifying any clues as to what support the resident needs, getting them to look for letters, then reading them to us.

We now talk residents through making online applications for benefits or the new grants brought in by the Chancellor on the phone. We take them through the whole application talking them through each step and we have to visualise the application form without seeing what they see on the screen. This can be quite a challenge.

Working in partnership

We’ve dramatically increased our partnership working with councils, the Department of Work and Pension (DWP), charities and food banks. We’ve had many successful outcomes where we’ve been able to get claims of Discretionary Housing Payment extended rather than make a new claim, something virtually impossible in normal times. We’ve also been able to register for foodbank evouchers, meaning we can still support our residents who have no food. So, this is working really well, and we hope we can maintain the new relationships and trust we’ve built with these organisations after this is over.

We’ve also been able to support our Network Homes colleagues with the many questions they have from residents and their own thoughts and concerns.

Successful outcomes for residents.

We’ve had numerous successes some of which have surprised even us.

We recently helped a resident who had nothing in their home but a small sofa. They were surviving on half a can of food a day, straight from the tin. He had become confused regarding the different process for claiming benefits. He had his suitcase packed as he thought he was going to be evicted.

We were able to contact Universal Credit to complete an application and a backdate for benefits. We also helped him to get furniture and white goods, food bank vouchers and generally get him on track.

Another couple of notable cases that stands out is one where we were able to get a resident a large Discretionary Housing Payment which has really helped them during this time. They were so shocked saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me, thank you so much for your help and everything. Stay safe not sure what I must do now I am so exited’. We also had resident who was about to be evicted with in excess of £12,000 arrears. She was unable to get the information the council needed but we found ways around it and she was able to clear her arears in full.

As you can see the team has pulled out all the stops. Yes, there are some things we’re not able to do at the moment and will spend a bit of time catching up when it’s over…but this is not from want of trying.

Benefits and financial support

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