A service set up to help housing association residents in financial difficulties is making a huge difference to people’s lives in Milton Keynes.
Between April last year and January, financial inclusion officers at Jephson Homes Housing Association secured extra revenue for tenants in the region totalling £36,000.
Against a background of challenging financial times and changes to welfare benefits, these advisors help people struggling with rent or other debts. They also help with opening bank or savings accounts, saving money on bills, obtaining low-cost credit and simply balancing the books.
One unnamed tenant, who lives in Milton Keynes, was faced with having to pay the Government’s under-occupancy charge - commonly called the bedroom tax - or move, until staff at Jephson stepped in to help. The 56-year-old was living alone in the three-bedroom home she had rented for 37 years.
She said: “I suffer from osteoarthritis, which causes me a lot of pain. I have a good support network of friends and family where I am now, as well as my daughter nearby who cares for me, so I didn’t want to move. But I couldn’t afford to pay the extra rent.
“I felt like it was either lose the house, be in more pain from going without heating, or not eat. It was all getting too much.”
Jephson staff secured an increase in the tenant’s disability living allowance, as well as a discretionary housing payment to cover the extra charge. They also arranged for an occupational therapist to visit her at home to look at making adaptations to make it easier for her to be independent.
She said: “I can’t praise Jephson enough - I really appreciate everything that has been done for me. I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
Judith Blackwell, Jephson financial inclusion officer for the East region, said: “We understand that it’s a really tough time for everyone financially at the moment. It’s getting harder for households to balance the books at the end of the month, when prices have increased but incomes have shrunk in real terms.
“Our service aims to help residents before they get into real difficulties. We’re delighted that it’s already making a positive difference.”