Thanks to Hightown’s new Financial Inclusion Service, residents were able to gain over £100,000 in unpaid benefits and allowances in the last financial year.
The Financial Inclusion Service was set up to offer financial advice to residents who were falling into debt. The money claimed has come from areas such as Personal Independence Payments, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Utility Grants and Council Tax discounts.
With the help of Hightown’s Financial Inclusion Service, Mark* a resident in Amersham was able to reclaim £10,000 in unpaid benefits. He said:
“The Financial Inclusion team looked into my case and discovered that I was owed four years of Employment and Support Allowance payments from 2011 to 2015. I would never have known how to reclaim the money I was owed if it wasn’t for their help and perseverance.”
Another resident, Claire* in Hemel Hempstead, was supported to take her case for Personal Independence Payments to tribunal.
“The tribunal ruled that I should be paid £80 a week in Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for my health condition. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their support as I get anxious so I found the tribunal quite a scary process. They reassured me every step of the way.
It’s made such a difference to my life as I can now afford to buy healthy food without worrying as much about the cost. Before the tribunal, my diet was really bad and I was mainly eating bread as it was the cheapest option.
Amidst the roll-out of Universal Credit, one of the team’s key roles will be ensuring that residents are prepared and understand how to manage their money under the new system.
Donna Spikings, Hightown’s Income Recovery Manager, said:
“I’m really proud that we work with residents to help them maintain their tenancy. There have been many cases where our Financial Inclusion Officers have discovered residents have not claimed money such as a carers allowance or disability benefit that they were entitled to. They also tell residents about the other support agencies who can help them and provide budgeting information to help them avoid getting into debt again in the future.”
Over 300 residents received help from the Financial Inclusion Service after being referred by their Housing or Income Officer last year. Due to the success, Hightown is currently recruiting another Financial Inclusion Officer.
*Please note these names have been changed to protect their identity.