The Tenancy Sustainment team has long been a lifeline for residents who need a range of financial support. From budgeting, benefits, food bank vouchers and even assistance in court for tribunals, the team provides a vital service for people who often have nowhere else to turn.
Sometimes financial assistance means using the team’s knowledge to help residents access government support. In the current times, Helen and her team are speaking to many people who are claiming benefits for the first time and having a hard time navigating systems like Universal Credit.
Helen says: “I assisted one family, a couple who were both self-employed with a young daughter, who now have no work or income at all due to lockdown. They were obviously very worried about how they would meet rent costs and other bills.
“They had never claimed any benefits before so I completed a calculation to advise them how much Universal Credit they would be entitled to and talked them through the claim process.”
As well as dealing with people’s immediate needs, being in touch with families allows Helen and her team to identify additional ways they can get help by talking through their situation.
“While we were talking, they told me that their daughter also has some severe mobility issues, so I suggested she may qualify for Personal Independence Payment (previously called Disability Living Allowance) and provided advice on how to claim. I was also able to give them information on support to pay their utilities bills and council tax,” Helen continues.
“The couple feel so much more relaxed now that they know they can pay their rent over the next few months and will be able to meet other day-to-day living costs and bills until they are able to return to work.”
Although results like this are clearly fantastic and rewarding for the Tenancy Sustainment team, the sheer number of residents now getting in touch has put extra strain on their resources.
The phone just never stopped ringing
“In the last six weeks the whole team has been busier than we’ve ever known,” says Helen, who has been at A2Dominion for just over three years. “For a long time it felt like the phone just never stopped ringing and the emails never stopped coming.
“We’ve also faced the challenge of keeping up to date with the various government schemes that have been introduced to cope with Covid-19, as well as the ever-changing benefits system. Added to this, we’ve also been adjusting to new ways of working from home.”
A completely new way of working
Helen says she misses travelling to see residents, which she used to do four days out of five. Helen and others in her team also travel for other reasons, such as accompanying residents to court for benefit tribunals, where they have a 100% success rate. They now have to offer that support in a virtual environment. It’s just one of the scenarios where the team are having to think on their feet.
“It’s a completely new way of working for me. We’re coming across different things every day and finding ways round things,” Helen explains.
A lifeline for families
For some people, a call to the Tenancy Sustainment team can come at a time when no other support is available to them.
Helen says: “One lady I spoke to was a single parent with a young son. She was really desperate and didn’t know which way to turn. She could no longer work as a self-employed cleaner which meant she had no income, no help to access public funds, including benefits, and therefore no money at all to feed or support her or her son.”
“I was able to issue her a food bank voucher immediately so that she could feed them both. I also made an application to The Sustainment Fund (an internal fund to help A2Dominion residents that are experiencing exceptional circumstances or severe financial hardship).
“This resulted in a payment of £75 a week for four weeks, which helped her to pay for her general living costs. I’m still working with the lady and have today put in an application for another £300 for the coming month to help her while this situation continues. She was overwhelmed and delighted that we were able to help her at such a worrying and difficult time.”
How to access this support
If you are an A2Dominion customer and the financial worries described above sound familiar, please email moneymatters@a2dominion and a member of the Tenancy Sustainment team will contact you. Alternatively, you can call 0800 432 0077 and ask for the Tenancy Sustainment team.
We also have support pages for customers, where you can find useful advice on where to access further support on a range of issues – including financial, medical, social isolation and food & shopping.
Even if these issues don’t affect you personally, it’s likely someone in your local community is facing these challenges and might not be able to access help online. Please have a think about anyone who could benefit from this advice and share it with them. A simple phone call can go a long way. Thanks for your help.