A team which helps city council tenants to maximise their income and apply for benefits and grants that they are entitled to has identified more than £1.5m in additional support in the last 12 months.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s in-house income advice team have supported tenants with identifying £1,581,493 in the last financial year, over 50 per cent more than the £1m in additional income for tenants in the previous 12 months.
The Income Advice Team can help tenants if they are struggling financially and finding it difficult to pay their rent. They can ensure that a tenant is receiving the correct benefits and income. The team can provide personal budgeting support and advise tenants who are affected by welfare reform measures such as the Spare Room subsidy, Universal Credit or the Benefit Cap.
Over the last 12 months the team have supported tenants with applications for Discretionary Housing Payments, Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Housing Benefit, Council tax reduction scheme, Universal Credit, Attendance Allowance, Employment Support Allowance (ESA), the Severn Trent Big difference scheme and grants from charitable organisations.
This coming year the city council has introduced a Financial Independence Fund that will see the Income Advice team working with tenants to offer solutions to Council tenants who are in financial difficulty, facing a financial crisis or in need of short-term assistance to successfully sustain their tenancy and accommodation. Any award would be part of an overall package of support delivered by the team and the Council’s partners to maximise a tenant’s income, provide debt advice and budgeting guidance, enabling a tenant to achieve financial independence.
One grateful customer said “I would like to thank the Income Advice Officer for all the advice and help she as given to me, the outcome is overwhelming. She helped me with my lack of confidence when dealing with issues like my tribunal with PIP, helped me with DHP, many other things too when I’ve felt that the situation I have been going through for two years now would never come to an end. But with this lady’s help, kindness & good advice I’ve finally reached the point where my life has changed for the better tremendously.
Another grateful tenant said: “I would like to thank the Income Advice Officer and Housing Officer. My husband passed away this year and both of them have listened and understood how difficult it has been for me. My late husband always paid the bills, so I have been very stressed as I didn't know what benefits I could claim or how to apply. They have helped me claim my pension and Housing Benefit. I have now set up a direct debit for my rent and the arrears too. I am grateful to them both for their time, patience and understanding. I would like to pass on my gratitude.”
Councillor Carl Edwards, Cabinet Member for Housing and Environment commended the work of the team. He said: “This service helps around 1500 tenants every year with income advice, the additional benefits that people are rightly entitled to go a long way to helping tenants pay their rent but also gives them money that they can hopefully spend locally. If you are a tenant that is struggling to pay your rent please contact either their housing officer or the income advice team.
“People can check for themselves if they are entitled to other benefits using our budget calculator which can be found at https://stoke.entitledto.co.uk/home/start. I would urge anyone to check regardless if they are a council tenant or not”.
The Income Advice Team can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01782 231564.
Where a tenant has a debt issue the team make a referral to CAB who can be contacted on 01782 408625 or email email@example.com