Cost of living: How we have been supporting Kim
We are here to support our tenants if they are struggling to pay their bills.
Single mum Kim is now around £300 a month better off thanks to our intervention and help.
Kim, who was living in one of our three-bedroomed properties in Leyland, had been struggling financially as a result of the shortfall in housing benefit caused by the bedroom tax. *
So our Financial Inclusion Team and Community Support Officers worked together to facilitate a Mutual Exchange ** (a process where tenants agree to swap houses to accommodate their needs. If a suitable swap can be identified, it is often quicker to move than applying for a move to an empty home).
Kim says: “I was living in a three-bedroomed house but because my older daughter moved out, and my two youngest daughters can share a room, I had to start paying the bedroom tax. This meant a reduction in £60 from my housing benefit each month.
“I also ended up in rent and council tax arrears, so having this mutual exchange has helped me significantly. Because I am no longer paying the bedroom tax, and my council tax is lower, I am better off.”
The 40-year-old, who has worked in several jobs in the past, is now unable to seek employment due to experiencing crippling pain with scoliosis.
So she relies on benefit support. However, after speaking with Gill from our Financial Inclusion Team, Kim realised she was not receiving all the benefits she was entitled to.
She was claiming Universal Credit and Disability Living Allowance. But Gill advised Kim she could also increase her Universal Credit payments further by including a ‘disabled child element’ and the ‘carer element’.
This gave her more money on top of her existing benefits.
Kim says: “I found out I was not claiming all the money I should have done and Gill helped me get these added elements backdated, which I used to start my Christmas shopping. No-one had told me about this before, so I was grateful for Gill’s advice. I would encourage people in a situation like me to do their research and seek proper advice, as this has really helped me.”
Kim says she feels ‘more at peace now,’ following our intervention and adds she is grateful for our ongoing support.
She refers back to a time last year when she had only 23p in her bank account. Our Community Support Officer Sam contacted South Ribble Council, and Kim was referred to a local community hub, who topped up her gas and electric by £20 and delivered a food parcel, which kept her going until she was paid.
She adds: “Back then, I felt I was existing week by week and not living and was constantly living in fear of not having enough money to make ends meet. But Sam was a Godsend and it was nice to have someone to talk to and listen to me.”
Rising food and energy prices are still a big concern for Kim but she feels more confident, especially with being given budgeting advice from our Financial Inclusion Team. Kim also uses the community shops at The Base and The Place community centres in Leyland.
She says: “It is all about thinking ahead and planning. I also use Unify Credit Union to save money. This helps me a lot.”
* If you are affected by bedroom tax and cannot afford to pay the shortfall in your rent, you may be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local council.
**If you are interested in a mutual exchange, or to understand more about your options to move to a different property, please visit our website: Mutual exchanges | Progress Housing Group (progressgroup.org.uk)
- We have joined PlaceShapers’ campaign to call for more support for low income families following the rising cost of living. We shared Kim’s story as just one example of how the crisis is affecting our tenants: www.placeshapers.org/cost-of-living-crisis-story-1/ Our article is a follow up from this.
- Understanding how anxious you may be feeling about the current crisis, we are here to help you, signposting and sharing information about saving money and where to get extra external support. Please check out our Cost of living hub for ways we can support you.
- If you need to speak to someone, you can make an enquiry through your tenant account, use our live chat on the website to speak to an advisor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0333 320 4555, between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday.
- Citizens Advice also provides energy and financial support and can be contacted on 0800 144 8848. They also provide a webchat service on www.citizensadvice.org.uk between 8am and 7pm, Monday to Friday. There is also some useful information about support from the government here: /helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk/
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