For Talk Money Week, we caught up with one of our Financial Inclusion Officers to find out more about their role and how they can support residents with their finances.
“The role of a Financial Inclusion Officer begins from the moment we receive a new referral for a resident who is struggling financially. We advise on how to keep utility bills down, how to sign up for low income tariffs and also ensure that a resident puts their priority bills (rent, council tax, utilities, TV license) first.
For those on benefits, it is vital that the resident knows the next steps to ensure there is minimal interruption to their income when moving home.”
“As a resident's financial situation changes, we can help check their benefit entitlements, and assist in applying for benefits such as Universal Credit, Council Tax Support, Personal Independence Payments, Carers Allowance or Discretionary Housing Payments. We can also advise on how to challenge benefit decisions, by helping the resident submit appeals for disability benefits and over payments etc. Our long term goal as a Financial Inclusion Officer is to empower our residents to help themselves, but to also be there to offer support should they need help at any time.”
“For me, the best part of being a Financial Inclusions Officer is that no two weeks are the same! You often come up against challenging situations and it is incredibly rewarding when you are able to improve the financial situation for a person and their family.”
The Financial Inclusion team work with residents based on a referral process from the Housing and Income Recovery teams. If you are experiencing financial difficulty, please speak with your Housing Officer or the Income Recovery team.
About the Financial Inclusion team
The Financial Inclusion team work hand in hand with the Income Recovery Team to ensure that residents receive the maximum support needed to maintain their tenancy. They maximise the resident's income by ensuring they are claiming the correct benefits, but also assist with applying for further grants and payments that can help reduce their bills.
For example, the Income Recovery team may identify a resident who is struggling financially and refer them to the Financial Inclusion Officers for further help. Once the Financial Inclusion Officers have received a referral, they will then assess the resident's income and expenditure and if suitable, assist them with an application for Discretionary Housing Payments to help reduce their rent debt. Additionally, having spoken to the Financial Inclusion Officer it could be identified that the resident may qualify for reduced tariffs on things such as water, or a grant towards their gas or electricity bills.
Working with the Income Recovery team
The relationship between Income Recovery and Financial Inclusion is an important one as Income Recovery Officers are able to identify those residents whose rent arrears are increasing, or who have lost contact with Hightown. The Income Officers are often the first port of call for residents who have had a change of circumstances.
Recently an Income Recovery Officer spoke to a resident whose relationship had broken down several months before. As the resident's partner had left the property, Universal Credit had reduced the housing payments by 50%. The partner had also been working, therefore the resident was further impacted as she was now affected by the benefit cap.
The Income Recovery Officer referred the resident to the Financial Inclusion Team, where the Financial Inclusion Officers assisted the resident in contacting Universal Credit to have her correct rent allowance paid. They then supported her with an application for Discretionary Housing Payments to meet with the ongoing rent shortfall. The payments were awarded and this allowed the resident a few months breathing space to look for work and to get out of the benefit cap.