Team helps tenants get £1.9million

Hundreds of housing association residents are better off after taking advice from their landlord.

Isos Housing, which manages former Castle Morpeth Council homes, helped tenants to secure an additional £1,9million in the last financial year by offering benefits and budgeting advice.

Its Financial and Social Inclusion team provides advice on a range of issues, such as coping with welfare reform, employment, fuel poverty, managing debt, avoiding illegal money-lenders, setting up bank accounts and appealing against benefit decisions.

In the last three years the team has expanded from three staff to seven and helped residents to claim £4.2million over the period.

It was also involved in a landmark court case over the Government’s Spare Room Subsidy, known as bedroom tax.

A family was separated and despite the father’s son staying with him four nights a week, the father’s benefit had been cut as it was the mother who received child benefit. A tribunal decided that the father should also have rights and his payment was reinstated.

In total, 3,160 residents used the Financial and Social Inclusion service in 2013/14, an increase of 23.5 per cent on the previous year. The number of new issues advised on increased by 77 per cent.

Team Manager Lee Forrest said: “This year in particular has been an extremely challenging year for our residents. With so many changes to benefit entitlements, it is no surprise that more and more people are accessing the service.

“Our aim is to provide the correct help, advice and guidance for residents to make informed choices.”