Russet’s Welfare Benefits Advice Service voted Money Action Net Awards Finalist.
Published by Kimberley Rowley for Circle in Housing and also in Communities
The public has supported Russet’s Welfare Benefits Advice service and voted it one of the top five finalists in the Money Action Net Awards. The awards recognise the efforts of social housing providers to support their tenants to manage their finances.
The service has been recognised for its bespoke provision that aims to help its tenants become financially stable, manage their money more proactively and reduce the negative effects of serious financial difficulty.
As a provider of social housing, Russet seeks to enhance customers’ life chances and support them in maintaining their tenancies. It recognises the importance of financial wellbeing and inclusion for its customers and the severe consequences if customers fall into arrears.
Russet’s service ensures that its customers receive the right benefits for their personal circumstances. Money advice officers signpost customers to local agencies, such as West Kent Debt Advice Centre, when specific help is required with emergency debt. Russet also part fund the local Citizens Advice Bureau (Tonbridge & Malling). The Welfare Benefit Advice service is promoted to all customers through regular newsletters, leaflets, door-knocking and community events.
LeeSpring, Sustainable Communities Manager, at Russet said:
“Many of our most vulnerable customers weren’t receiving benefits they were entitled to. Without our specialist advice many customers could not complete the forms in sufficient detail. Others may not even realise that they should be claiming for themselves or simply find the system too complex.
“Russet’s dedicated welfare advice service has helped its residents claim around £1.4m of benefits, helping to change their lives. Our aim is to ensure that our customers do not experience rent arrears as a result of reduced income, changes of circumstances or financial hardship. When our customers receive the benefits they qualify for, they are more likely to remain independent, housed, in optimum health and contribute to sustainable communities. The service also benefits the wider area, as fewer arrears mean Russet can invest more back into local community. “
The service runs alongside other financial inclusion services offered by Russet.
- A dedicated benefits helpline one day per week
- Advice on back to work benefits as part of a pilot project giving intensive help to 10 residents to return to the workplace, reducing their dependency on earnings replacement benefits.
- A monthly surgery as a pilot in several Children’s Centres within Tonbridge where in-depth advice will be offered to all of our tenants as well as members of the general public.
- A financial well-being course offered to all local primary schools with a view to enhancing the financial education children get at school in the hope that they develop an early understanding of money, needs, wants and priorities.