Landlord to host ‘soap opera’ about benefit changes
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Local Government, Universal Credit
Tameside-based housing association New Charter Homes is turning its offices into the venue for a ‘soap opera’ to help tell tenants about important changes to their welfare benefits.
It will run a series of plays called Confusion Street with actors performing scenes to show tenants the impact the changes will have on real-life people like them.
It comes as a new award - launched by payment collection specialist allpay and 24housing magazine - seeks to showcase the best ways housing providers and councils are communicating welfare reform changes to residents.
The soap opera-type shows will take place at New Charter’s Ashton-under-Lyne offices on Saturday 9 February (10am – 3pm) at a welfare reform event for New Charter and Aksa Homes residents in Tameside and Oldham.
The offices will even be decorated with cobble-themed scenery to help tenants feel like they are in the middle of a drama straight off the TV.
The 18,000-home landlord has worked with tenants and drama-based training group ‘AFTA Thought’ to put on the plays and, through the power of drama it hopes local people will better understand how the Government’s benefits cuts will affect them.
The theatre group will act out scenes to explain the different cuts including the ‘Bedroom Tax’ which will affect around 1,700 New Charter tenants in social housing across Tameside and Oldham from April.
This new rule for people who are under-occupying their homes will see those with one ‘spare’ bedroom lose out on around 14% from the maximum housing benefit they get and those with two or more will lose 25% per week.
Tenants will get less help with their rent payments through housing benefit and will have to make up the shortfall from their remaining household incomes.
Actors will also perform scenes around moving to a smaller home, lodging and the impact of other benefit caps and changes.
New Charter has set up a dedicated 'SWAT' team to give help and advice to tenants around changes to their benefits and staff will be on hand to talk to tenants at the soap opera event.
Tenants will also be able to find out more about swapping their home with other tenants and what properties are available for exchange. New Charter’s new neighbourhood coordinators will be on hand to give advice too.
The event is free with refreshments and fun activities for children.
Tony Powell, New Charter’s executive director of neighbourhoods said: “The changes to welfare benefits will affect many working people as well as vulnerable tenants who will struggle to make ends meet.
“In particular, where working age tenants have a spare bedroom, they are likely to see a significant cut in their housing benefit.
“Unfortunately there aren’t enough smaller homes to move people to and for those that can’t or don’t want to move, we are doing everything we can to help them manage their money to lessen the impact of the new ‘Bedroom Tax’ rules.
“Our soap opera event is something different to help inform as many tenants as possible about the changes that are going to affect them and it’s a chance for them to see some real-life scenarios and talk to someone to get advice and support.”
Mary Austin, AFTA Thought's managing director, added: “Welfare Reform policies will impact on millions of people, but there's still so much confusion about how it'll affect people in real terms.
“Confusion Street uses extensive research and our work with tenants to bring policies to life, helping people to understand the impact on them. New Charter has really taken the lead in supporting their tenants at a time of real hardship.”